Should Vermont Health Connect Endure? Lawmakers Commission An Independent Study
When the new governor takes office in January, he or she will be given a new, independent analysis concerning the future of Vermont Health Connect, the state's health care web site.
A a tri-partisan group of lawmakers included this study as part of this year's budget bill.
Among the questions that lawmakers hope this new study will answer is: Is continuing to maintain and operate a state run website the best way to provide access to health care for thousands of Vermonters?
The evaluation will be done by an independent organization under the auspices of the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office.
Vermont Health Connect has been plagued with technical problems since its inception, and some important small business functions have never worked.
Chittenden Sen. Tim Ashe says it's critical to have an outside review of Vermont Health Connect to help determine its viability in the future.
Ashe says the study is about “enabling the Legislature to make a conclusive decision about how to proceed. Nobody runs for the Legislature thinking that all of the priorities they had when they ran for office would be subverted by a health care website."
Ashe says the report will specifically evaluate the pros and cons of several options, including keeping the current system, being part of a multi-state plan or joining the federal system.
"We want the hand-wringing to come to an end." - Sen. Tim Ashe
“What we are really hoping that that last element of this report is when we come back we have an action plan, so that we're not going to have this annual discussion about, ‘Well, are we getting closer to fixing it? What should we do now?’ We want the hand-wringing to come to an end,” Ashe says.
Lawrence Miller, the chief of health care reform for the Shumlin administration, thinks the review will show that the administration is methodically working through its list of issues to make the website function properly.
“That'll provide some good basis for decision making going forward,” Miller says. “I think we have a very clear understanding of the range of defects in the system, what needs to happen to fix those, and that's reasonably well on track."
"The need to do a turnaround on a project of this scale while business was in operations was a real challenge." - Lawrence Miller, health care reform chief
Miller also thinks the independent review will document the enormous challenges that have faced Vermont Health Connect right from the start.
“I think this was really set up for failure from the beginning, and the need to do a turnaround on a project of this scale while business was in operations was a real challenge,” he says.
The independent study will cost up to $250,000. The money will come from funds that had previously been allocated to the Joint Fiscal Office for health care reviews.