Nearly a year-and-a-half since Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee created the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange by executive order, the Ocean State has yet to see any tangible evidence of what will become the centerpiece in the state of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
This fact is not surprising in one sense. The federal government gave all states a Dec. 14, 2012, deadline to file their plans for operating an exchange, which Rhode Island met with two days to spare.
But what has given some cause to worry about Rhode Island’s readiness for the Jan. 1, 2014, start date for the exchange is the seeming slowdown of the pace toward completion of the task.
Rhode Island started off with a bang, being one of the first states to receive significant federal support, to the tune of $64.8 million to date.
But the state just signed the contract with Deloitte Consulting less than two weeks ago to build the key software component of the exchange (known as the systems integrator).
The contract comes about a month after the executive director of the exchange, Christine Ferguson, told a business audience that she was not sure it would be fully operational by the beginning of next year.
It’s possible that the signs the state has been sending are just speed bumps along the road to project completion. But this project is too large and too important for the state not to bring a great sense of urgency to the enterprise. It’s time to show that urgency in action. •