Politics & Government
7:01 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Here's why Michigan is hiring the people who rolled out Healthcare.gov

You may have seen the headlines:

Yes, Michigan is hiring a contractor who worked on Obamacare. But why?
Credit healthcare.gov

"Michigan awards $90M deal to builder of problem-plagued HealthCare.gov"

Or the very similarly titled: 

"Michigan awards $90M contract to Canadian tech firm that built troubled HealthCare.gov" 

But according to the Michigan department overseeing this contract, we've been working with that company, the Canadian tech firm CGI, for a while now.

"We used CGI to work with us on launching our Healthy Michigan website, which has received rave reviews and has been very successful," says Kurt Weiss of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.  

"We have over 300,000 Michiganders signed up now,  and we worked very closely with CGI on that. So we have every confidence that they're the right vendor for the job." 

The Healthy Michigan site opened in April, to help some 477,000 eligible Michiganders enroll in the state's expanded Medicaid program. 

So far, 315,000 people have signed up, according to the state's count. 

So who is CGI, and why is the state hiring them?

CGI is a giant in the field of tech consulting, especially for state and the federal government. 

Let's say your state wants to collect unpaid debts faster. 

CGI would be happy to build you an IT system that does it.

Now, in Michigan's case, the state has finally allocated money to update the decades-old financial system that pays employees and vendors. 

Weiss says they opened up the bidding process to several consultant groups, and CGI came out ahead. 

"We had over 200 advisers looking at various aspects of the contract, because this is going to touch every department in the state of Michigan," he says. 

"Certainly we did look across the country at what CGI did, and felt very comfortable that what CGI did across the country was very good."  

In fact, CGI's product was deemed superior, even though they weren't the lowest bidder.

They will, however, open an office in the Lansing area so their employees can work on the new contract.     

What's the deal with the Obamacare connection? 

The Obama administration "parted ways" with CGI after the botched Healthcare.gov rollout.

And CGI was certainly one of the largest contractors hired to make the website work.

But they weren't the only one: 55 contractors were tasked with the site's rollout.

That's according to the Washington Post:

"Some people think that the system was underfunded: Donald Berwick, who administered the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2010 and 2011, says the site failed because they didn't have enough money to build it from the start. Others point fingers at the Department of Health and Human Services, which took years to issue final specifications, preventing CGI from really getting started until this spring."