• State seeks help with exchange backlog
     | June 04,2014

    MONTPELIER — The state is negotiating with an additional contractor to help address a backlog with its health care exchange, a state official said Tuesday.

    The contractor will help with 10,000 change-of-circumstance requests made by consumers through Vermont Health Connect.

    Under an amended contract signed in early April, tech giant CGI, the state’s main contractor for Vermont Health Connect, was required to deliver change-of-circumstance functionality on the website by May 21.

    The upgrade was supposed to allow thousands of Vermonters to edit personal information online if mistakes were made during registration, or if they experienced a life-changing event such as marriage.

    But Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson said CGI has not completed work and testing on the change-of-circumstance function and it has yet to be deployed. Meanwhile, the backlog of 10,000 requests has amassed since the site launched in October, with no clear plan to address it.

    “We have had many Vermonters waiting longer than we feel comfortable with in order to get their change request processed,” he said.

    As a result, Larson said, state officials are in negotiations with a new contractor to help assess and address the backlog. State workers are currently processing the requests, but the contract would provide new, on-the-ground resources, he said.

    “We are looking at this vendor as a way of helping us work through the backlog of requests that we currently have and helping those Vermonters that have been waiting for their requests to be processed,” Larson said.

    The next few months “are critical” to providing a working exchange site for the next open enrollment period beginning in November, according to Larson. He said CGI remains on the hook for building and deploying the change-of-circumstance function, as well as small business access to the website. Small businesses cannot currently enroll in health plans online.

    “This contract does not imply any change in our contract with CGI. What I would say there, is there are important components of Vermont Health Connect that CGI continues to work on and we can continue to work with them,” Larson said.

    Because negotiations are ongoing, Larson did not name the firm or provide many details. The cost will come out of money for the exchange already approved by the federal government. No money is being redirected from CGI, and CGI’s scope of work will remain the same, he said.

    Larson said the new contractor may be assisting the state “in the work that’s left to do to make sure that Vermonters have the full functionality with Vermont Health Connect.” He declined to provide any further details but said the contract does not include software work.

    “The work that we are negotiating for, right now, does not include direct systems integration or coding work,” he said.

    The state did not put out a request for proposals. Instead, it is using a modified bid proposal that allows it to seek responses from fewer vendors while still following the state’s procurement procedures.

    “This is a very critical period of time, and we know that Vermonters have been frustrated by the pace at which we have been processing their change-of-circumstance requests, and so we have followed procedures in a way that maximized our ability to respond to those requests in a timely manner,” he said.

    neal.goswami @rutlandherald.com

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