• Feds to track progress of Vt. Health Connect
    By
     | May 16,2014
     

    MONTPELIER — Federal officials will be in Vermont this summer to audit the development and operation of Vermont Health Connect as part of a larger plan to review the federal Affordable Care Act at the state and federal level.

    The Office of Inspector General, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will carry out the review of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace required by the ACA, according to State Auditor Doug Hoffer.

    Donald White, an OIG spokesman, said he could neither confirm nor deny that Vermont’s efforts will be reviewed. However, a work plan posted online states that OIG’s review of exchanges “will focus on ensuring that taxpayer funds are spent for their intended purposes and that marketplaces operate efficiently and effectively.”

    The reviews will focus on payment systems, eligibility systems, contracts and security of data and consumer information, according to the work plan.

    Hoffer said his office is hoping to coordinate with the federal review and has already met with federal officials out of Boston about their plans in Vermont.

    “We met with them in this office … to have a conversation and to make sure we weren’t going to step on each other’s toes and identify ways to work together,” Hoffer said.

    “Nothing has been decided except the fact that Vermont is on the short list of states they’re going to look at in addition to the federal site,” he said.

    Vermont, along with 13 other states, opted to build its own online health insurance marketplace. Vermont Health Connect launched in October with serious deficiencies and is still not fully functional.

    The scope and topics of the federal review remain unclear. Hoffer said his office wants to ensure that information-technology security, call centers and contracts are examined. Federal inspectors would be better suited to examine IT security, he said.

    “They have mentioned that as one of the possibilities,” Hoffer said. “That would certainly take a load off of us, because we don’t have that in-house capacity.”

    He added, “It’s a big animal. It’s a beast. We have had discussions, which are ongoing, about what our options are. We want to know what they’re going to do so we won’t replicate them. Redundancy doesn’t serve anybody.”

    Hoffer said his focus will be on examining parts of the exchange that can best help state officials improve systems as the state moves forward with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed publicly financed health care system.

    “We’re not going to make our decision solely based on what they do,” he said. “We want to look at a piece of the puzzle that will be helpful going forward, because this is not the end of what Vermont is trying to do, as you know.”

    Hoffer said his staff won’t begin any review of the exchange until July.

    neal.goswami

    @timesargus.com

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