MNsure's website contractors draw 11th-hour flak

  • Article by: Jackie Crosby , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2013 - 6:35 AM

As problems with Minnesota’s health insurance exchange website persist, MNsure board members on Wednesday for the first time raised questions about the competency of the outside companies the state hired to build it.

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william16Dec. 18, 1310:39 PM

Had the MNsure board and/or leadership bothered to use this cool info site called Wikipedia on this neat tool called the Internet (it's all the rage nowadays) a couple years ago when vetting contractors to build the state exchange site, they would have discovered the entry for Maximus has an entire long section on state by state criticisms of Maximus dating back to 1997. And not just small stuff but large scale, attorney general provoking misconduct, mismanagement and malfeasance. MNsure hiring Maximus to do its web site and then wondering what went wrong is like eating at a restaurant with multiple poor Yelp ratings and then wondering how you got food poisoning. By the way wasn't there a single Minnesota company that could at least have been a subcontractor on this project?

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JJUpNorthDec. 18, 1310:49 PM

This is like watching a train wreck happen. They had years to get this program running and expect the Public to enter their private data into MNSures database. Good luck on that happening.

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PXLatedDec. 18, 1310:59 PM

I've worked on a few very large complex web sites/apps - one being a big five retail commerce - so I'm somewhat sympathetic to what it takes to pull these things of. They're really not "websites", they're computer applications with a web front end - In other words, not your average run of the mill company website. On the other hand, we launched that major eCommerce site in nine months without the kind of glitches MNsure has. I spent most of yesterday helping a friend get through the MNsure registration and it was one of the most screwed up messes I've ever dealt with. And, it wasn't just the tech issues (stalls, etc), the whole user interface sucks from design to writing to front-end code. I swear they didn't have a single competent person working on this. I can't imagine not firing everyone involved - maybe not right now in the crunch but definitely at some point. Then, start over. It needs everything from tech on the backend to writing, design, UI, and usability on the front end. I know management gets comfort from (and hides behind) the fact that they hired this big national outfit - but they themselves weren't even qualified to make that selection. You need to find someone that has actually built a large-scale site to oversee and manage the dev. There are several locally and a ton of competent web/app developers right here. - I guarantee you they CAN'T do a worse job. And one last thing - Once found, management needs to stay completely out of the way. Most management (private or govt) is not knowledgable enough to be actively involved except for testing, etc. The only thing they should be concerned with is "does it work" (technically) and "is it easy to use.

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davehougDec. 18, 1311:01 PM

Actually they did NOT have years to make this happen. Critical decisions by the President's people came late and got changed even then. ASK any IT project lead and the first thing is nail down just exactly what is required. Many other problems I'm sure, but slow and changing decisions made everybody's job harder.

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elmore1Dec. 18, 1311:02 PM

11th hour speaks volumes. We have a Guv, BOD and a number of executives "managing" this program. Do you wait until the house is fully a blaze before you step in?

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greatxDec. 18, 1311:08 PM

"Four companies have played key roles in building the MNsure site, with the Reston, Va.,-based company Maximus serving as the lead contractor. The state received $46 million in federal grants to build the complex technological infrastructure and has paid Maximus a little more than $25.4 million to date, MNsure officials said."

I am no rocket scientist, but I did "build" my own web page in 1998... and it cost me nothing but my time. How can these "contractors" spend 25 MILLION DOLLARS for something that DOES NOT work? Yes I am flippin shouting! Gosh darn it, why is the state WASTING my tax money?

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greatxDec. 18, 1311:17 PM

JJUpNorth says: "This is like watching a train wreck happen."

Isn't that what Sen Max Baucus said would happen?

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kkjerDec. 18, 1311:34 PM

If all these executives from different states are quitting, it makes one think that it one quitting

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forpeopleDec. 19, 1312:30 AM

The website is one of the worst systems I have seen in 30 years. It does not reflect even elementary principles of usability and software development methodologies. April Todd-Malmgren simply did not have either the intelligence or skills needed to manage this project. I can't believe this board is thinking of keeping her on as a consultant.

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erikj3Dec. 19, 1312:44 AM

JJUpNorth: "They had years to get this program running and expect the Public to enter their private data into MNSures database."...Guess who was in charge for most of that time? Republicans, who shut down the legislature and passed a couple of divisive social constitutional amendments.

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