Governor Shumlin’s Handpicked Vendor Costs Taxpayers $72-Million And There’s Still No Fully Functioning Website

Montpelier, VT – It’s an unprecedented example of government waste, mismanagement and political cronyism.

After spending over $72-million taxpayer dollars and forcing Vermonters into a healthcare system that still is not fully functional, Governor Peter Shumlin Monday announced he would finally dump the exchange’s website developer CGI Technologies.

While Governor Shumlin deserves credit for finally acknowledging this failure, he still hasn’t taken real responsibility or communicated precisely what steps his team will be taking to provide Vermonters the affordable health insurance choices they deserve.

In our view, firing CGI should be the beginning of a much deeper and more substantive overhaul that is desperately needed.

If Peter Shumlin’s healthcare exchange were a car, it would be subject to the Lemon Law. But it’s not a car — its the only insurance option for thousands of Vermonters who he forced into a system that he knew full well was not fully functional.

Governor Shumlin has repeatedly rejected a more moderate, balanced approach that would have offered Vermonters in the exchange more affordable plan choices administered through a tested and reliable user-friendly system that actually works. As a result, thousands of Vermonters are caught in a bureaucratic nightmare while waiting for Peter Shumlin’s promises of a quick fix with another government gimmick.

It’s time for Governor Shumlin to get real–or at least be honest with us. That would be refreshing.

In just two months, another round of mandatory enrollments will occur. Will the exchange be ready? If he cannot guarantee that it is fully functional, he should act now to ensure the next round of Vermont’s small business owners to be forced onto the exchange, and the thousands of Vermonters who work for them, have stability and predictability.

But, all signs point to a continued pattern of deceit and mismanagement from this Governor and his administration.

Consider that other leaders came to the conclusion that CGI was incapable of providing functionality long before he did. The federal government fired CGI due to poor performance in January and Massachusetts did the same back in March. One can only wonder why it took the Shumlin administration so long — and cost taxpayers so much — to come to the same conclusion. It’s possible that Vermonters would have to look no further than CGI’s $110,000 in campaign contributions last December to the the Democratic Governor’s Association — an organization chaired by Governor Peter Shumlin.

Most importantly — and beyond the more straightforward issues of websites and vendors — the firing of CGI brings much deserved scrutiny to Governor Shumlin’s overall efforts at health care “reform.” Governor Shumlin’s decision to go it alone as a small state — and his refusal to listen to Vermonters’ concerns until Monday — has cost us dearly. Vermonters now pay more and have less choice than before the bungled exchanged was rolled out. This is not the type of health care access, quality, and affordability that Vermonters deserve.

It is likely Governor Shumlin will argue that the problems he has created are the result of Vermont not going far enough, not being extreme enough and not spending enough taxpayer dollars.

Vermonters know better. We know arrogance when we see it.

The problems that we face today are the result of unbalanced, unchecked and unqualified state leadership. To blame the problems solely on a technology vendor is irresponsible and shortsighted. Vermonters want competent and capable leaders who will deliver complete accountability and transparency — from their vendors, their employees and themselves.

As we have in the past, we once again call on Governor Shumlin to bring real reform to Vermont’s health care policies by making structural changes that offer better choices for Vermonters on the exchange.

First, Secretary Racine and Commissioner Larson should be immediately replaced with competent and capable healthcare leaders. Second, Vermonters should be allowed to purchase the insurance policies that best fit their needs through the online exchange or through Vermont’s existing independent insurers. And third, Vermont should immediately work with neighboring states to explore the potential for a more regional health insurance exchange that would offer more choices and lower prices for Vermonters.

This is what Vermonters deserve.

It’s time for a change.

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