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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Shumlin: Health Connect Website Fixes Are Starting To Work

Peter Hirschfeld
Gov. Peter Shumlin, flanked by top officials at Vermont Health Connect, says the reduced change-of-circumstance backlog at the state's online health insurance marketplace means the program is on track.

Ten weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin heralded the arrival of a new piece of software at Vermont Health Connect. Tuesday afternoon, the governor unveiled new numbers that he says show the program is back on track.

Headaches and heartburn have been all-too-common symptoms for Vermonters trying to purchase their health insurance on the state's new online marketplace. The problems have persisted since the Vermont Health Connect's launch in October of 2013. And they've prompted repeated calls for the state to abandon the state-based program in favor of a federal version of the exchange.

Peter Shumlin says his team was long ago able diagnose the problem.

"The hassles that have been created for Vermonters by the Vermont Health Connect website have almost all been related to the inability to make changes and therefore get out proper bills and all the other hassles folks have been facing," Shumlin said at an afternoon news conference.

Shumlin says the fix installed at the end of May is actually going to work. According to Shumlin, the new software is allowing Vermont Health Connect employees to automatically update changes in a consumer's life circumstances, whether that means a change of address, or adding or dropping a spouse or child.

The inability to process those changes automatically had resulted in a customer backlog of more than 10,000 people as of May 31.

"We had 10,200," Shumlin said. "We're happy to report that we are now at less than 4,500 of the old change-of-circumstance backlog."

By reducing that backlog to less than half, Shumlin says Vermont Health Connect is demonstrating its capacity to process the consumer data that had previously led to billing errors, erroneous policy terminations and, in some cases, delayed access to care.

"So we now continue to be cautiously optimistic that we will have the entire backlog cleared up by Oct. 1 which is when we need to have it cleared up to open up our new enrollment for next year," Shumlin said.

"We now continue to be cautiously optimistic that we will have the entire backlog cleared up by Oct. 1." - Gov. Peter Shumlin

The change-of-circumstance technology isn't running at full steam yet. According to Vermont Health Connect officials, the automated software only works for about half of the customer calls coming into the exchange.

But Shumlin says the software will be fully functional by Oct. 1. And he says automated enrollment software that needs to be on hand by that deadline is also coming along on schedule.

The state recently amended its contract with the technology firm it hired last year to build the software. The maximum value of the contract went up by nearly$20 million, to $76 million, in the June 29 amendment.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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