Vermont Health Connect To Be Fully Functional In Early July - Maybe
The state has reached an agreement with its technology contractor that says the troubled health exchange will be fully operational at the beginning of July. But the Shumlin Administration says they’re ready to push that date back if any serious technical problems emerge in the next four weeks.
One of the biggest problems facing Vermont Health Connect since its start up last October is that the online premium payment system for small businesses has never worked.
That’s one of the reasons why the state was able to collect just over $5 million in penalty fees from CGI, the lead contractor of the exchange.
"That is the date in the contract and it is a date that we will continue to evaluate." - DVHA Commissioner Mark Larson on the target date of July 2 for the exchange to offer all options to small businesses
Recently, the state of Massachusetts, cut its ties with CGI because of ongoing problems that made it very difficult for consumers to sign up for coverage. Massachusetts is now implementing an exchange model offered by the federal government.
Mark Larson is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health Access. Rather than drop CGI, he says the state renegotiated its contract with the company because he says it’s very important for Vermont to run its own exchange.
“There’s just a number of different ways in which being in charge of our own exchange gives us more ability to make sure it works for Vermont now,” said Larson. “As well as how it works for our future plans for a more integrated universal health system.”
Larson says CGI has set a target date of July 2 to have the website fully operational but he says this deadline might be moved back.
“That is the date in the contract and it is a date that we will continue to evaluate,” said Larson.
Darcie Johnston is the head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom – a group that’s been very critical of Governor Peter Shumlin’s health care policies.
She says Vermont should have put the federal exchange model in place right from the start.
“I think we should have looked at that back last November when the system didn’t work when it came up on Oct. 1,” said Johnston. “We’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into a system that still doesn’t work, it isn’t serving Vermonters well.”
Johnston says it’s also a mistake to maintain the state exchange as a bridge to a single payer system.
“So we’re putting the goal, Peter Shumlin’s political goal of single payer health care, ahead of what is the best way to provide health insurance to Vermonters,” said Johnston.
Vermont Health Connect is also facing some new technical problems. Roughly 10,000 consumers have been blocked from making any online changes to information on their original application. This work is now being done manually.
Commissioner Larson says CGI has promised to fix this problem by June 8.