For Christmas, Vermont and Massachusetts are giving a lump of coal to CGI Federal, the Canadian company that built and seven other state-based health care exchanges.

The two states have stopped payment to the contractor because, as with the national website, their health care portals left much to be desired. Massachusetts already had a health care exchange in place from when the whole thing was Gov. Mitt Romney’s idea, but the state took out a $69 million contract with CGI Federal to bring it in line with the Affordable Care Act.

As The Boston Globe reports:

Massachusetts has reverted to using an alternative software system and paper notifications for residents seeking new insurance, a significant black eye for a system that was held up as a national model for providing coverage after it debuted in 2007.

In Vermont, state officials recently alerted CGI that the state is withholding payment of $5.1 million as compensation for the company’s failure to meet key deadlines.

The state is also disputing more than $1 million in charges billed by CGI because of incomplete work that left its insurance website so far behind schedule that Vermonters could not buy coverage online, as promised under Obama’s health care law, until early December, two months after it opened.

Not all states have suffered to the same extreme. While the federal website,, has become a joke, Covered California, also built by CGI, performed much better.

Still, Vermont and Massachusetts could prove to be trendsetters. As The Verge points out, “CGI also built most of the federal marketplace,, which was also plagued by errors and downtime. The administration has not taken any action against the contractor, however, nor have any of the other five states for which CGI built exchanges with varying success.” That could change as the crown jewel of the Obama administration has come under renewed attack. It’s a political hot potato, and, with midterm elections coming up, it might be easier to throw the spud over the border into Canada.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer


If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.