Microsoft tells exchange to loosen up

Boston (FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Arvind Balaraman) Boston (FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Arvind Balaraman)

Massachusetts should improve its glitch-plagued public exchange enrollment system by dividing the system into separate segments and re-engineering each one separately.

William O’Leary, Dave Meyers and other consultants from Microsoft Corp. made that recommendation in a report recently posted on the Massachusetts Health Connector website.

Massachusetts universities helped give birth to modern computers, and its government helped develop the public health insurance exchange concept. But the state has had to depend mainly on manual workarounds for the 2014 public exchange enrollment period.

The Microsoft consultants say the exchange technology project failed mainly because the designers used an outmoded, “tightly coupled” architecture. If one system fails, they all do, the consultants say.

The exchange will work better and be easier to develop and test if it shifts a “service-oriented architecture” philosophy, or uses loosely coupled, plug-and-play systems, the consultants say.

Splitting up the exchange project into chunks and fixing them one by one would probably be safer than either trying to tweak the system or getting a new one from a state with a working exchange, the consultants say.

Given how new the PPACA exchange program is, Massachusetts could have trouble figuring out how well other states’ exchange systems really work, the consultants warn.

The consultants cite Nevada as an example of a state with an exchange system that seems to be meeting performance targets – but the exchange board there has been complaining about the performance of its lead technology vendor lately.

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