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The Chicago way? Illinois officials under fire for ObamaCare contracts

Making ObamaCare a reality will require massive computing power to track, store and process the millions of individual cases.

But in Illinois, contracts to compute that state’s cases – valued as high as $190 million – are being awarded without competitive bidding.

The practice already has watchdogs crying foul.

“No transparency and with no bidding -- if that’s legal in Illinois, It shouldn’t be.” said Adam Andrzejewski of openthebooks.com, a watchdog group.

“To the extent that is happening across the country, the citizens need to know it.”

“It has the hallmarks of everything that is Chicago and also Illinois, which is totally imprudent and not the best practices,” says Illinois Republican State Senator Ron Sandack.

Illinois cases are stored and processed in the Medicaid Management Information System or MMIS. The Department of Health and Family Services describes the 30-year-old system as antiquated and needing an upgrade to handle the massive case load expected from ObamaCare.

A company from Gaithersburg, Maryland, Client Network Services Incorporated or CNSI, already has a contract in Michigan to perform similar services.

By forming an alliance with Michigan, Illinois was able to bypass a drawn-out, expensive bidding process because the state procurement code says HFS doesn’t need one if there is an intergovernmental agreement.

“The system can be built in much less time,” wrote Illinois director of HFS, Julie Hamos. “Which is saving taxpayers millions of dollars versus Illinois implementing a much costlier stand-alone system.”

CNSI, however, has encountered problems in other states.

The company sued Louisiana after a contract there was terminated during an investigation into whether CNSI and a handful of other companies violated ethical guidelines during the procurement process.

According to openthebooks.com there were also cost overruns in Washington and Maine and a lawsuit in South Dakota that ended in mediation.

However, the federal government certified CNSI, which was sufficient for Illinois to move forward with the intergovernmental agreement.

“The issues in other states since then do not in any way reflect the technological capabilities and performance Michigan has experienced with CNSI,” wrote director Hamos.

A spokesperson for CNSI said these kinds of partnerships will be part of the future and computing for the Affordable Care Act will be handled in “a cloud” -- meaning cases will be filed in one state, then computed, stored and processed in a mega-computer somewhere else.

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.