Health exchange hires new quality-control company

Nearly three months after the Maryland health exchange decided to ditch its online marketplace for a new website, the exchange board has hired a small Greenbelt firm to check its work.

The board voted Tuesday to award Angarai International Inc., a professional management consulting firm, a one-year contract for $3.55 million to audit technology development and management on the site.


Isabel FitzGerald, who was brought in to oversee the tech operation when the first website failed, said this firm is expected to be "more proactive" than the previous one, "so we don't wait for a report."

Those reports, filed regularly by BerryDunn and eventually released by the exchange, had spotted problems with the website up to a year before the launch and warned exchange officials to scale back on the site just before the Oct. 1 opening because it was not fully tested.

That company's contract ran out last year but was extended to June 30. The exchange does not plan to release any more reports from the company, which cover only work done on the old site, according to Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the state's health secretary and chairman of the exchange board.

Sharfstein said there have been no audits of progress on the new site, though the federal agency that oversees state exchanges requires the reviews, called independent verification and validation.

Work began on the new site in early April when the exchange board voted to hire Deloitte Consulting to bring in technology used on the Connecticut exchange. Angarai was chosen from among five bidders and is expected to begin its auditing duties July 1. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, FitzGerald, secretary of the state's Department of Information Technology, said that officials made presentations directly to federal regulators and that those regulators were pleased with how the work is going. The state needs approval for its technology and budget because most of the $41 million for development and $50 million for website hosting, software licenses, planning, rent and other expenses approved by the board for the next five years of operations comes from federal coffers.

During a recent test, she said, the new website was able to hook up to the federal data hub that verifies consumers' identification.

"We remain on track with the schedule," she told the board. The next open enrollment period begins in November.

The board also made interim Executive Director Carolyn Quattrocki permanent, making no changes to her $136,818 salary. She worked in the governor's health reform office but was tapped to run the exchange when Rebecca Pearce stepped down under pressure in December.

The exchange board was also updated Tuesday on the exchange website for small businesses, which will continue to roll out in stages. Employers now must go directly to insurers or use brokers to sign up, and full use of an online portal by employers and employees will not be available until 2016.