• Health exchange website misses another deadline
     | June 07,2014

    MONTPELIER — A function allowing Vermont Health Connect users to correct or update their information online will not go live this weekend as expected.

    Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said a backlog of 10,000 requests to edit information has amassed since the site launched in October.

    The state’s vendor, CGI, was supposed to have the “change of circumstance” function live on the health insurance exchange website by May 21 based on an amendment to the original contract. The state then extended the deadline to Sunday. Now there is a new delay as testing continues.

    “We’re making very good progress on the development of the functionality, and we’re close with automated change-of-circumstance functionality but have made the decision that it’s not ready to go this weekend into the live environment,” Larson said Friday.

    When deployed, the upgrade will allow Vermonters to edit personal information online if mistakes were made during registration, or if they experienced a life-changing event such as marriage.

    “It’s important to us to make sure that the functionality, when it’s ready to go, is ready to serve Vermonters well,” Larson said. “So, we’re going to continue our work until we feel like it’s ready to serve Vermonters, and focus on the quality and thoroughness of our work at this point.”

    The delays frustrate lawmakers, including Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, chairman of the House Health Care Committee.

    “I think this is a really serious problem, and I think it’s really an unacceptable situation that we’re in right now,” Fisher said.

    “Ten thousand households, many of whom may have small inconsequential changes, a change of address or something, but many of these Vermonters are worried that they’re not going to be able to get the care they need,” he said.

    Continued issues and delays with the exchange site could damage future health care reform efforts, he said.

    “I just know that there’s a lot of worry out there and a lot of frustration, and I have been hearing a lot of it,” Fisher said. “It really does impact people’s view of our ability to move forward on health care reform.”

    Meanwhile, the state is negotiating with a new vendor to help deal with the backlog in change-of-circumstance requests. The backlog increased by about 2,000 requests in the last month or so.

    That contract, details of which remain confidential as negotiations continue, was expected to be signed by the end of Friday, Larson said. It will provide additional workers to help users update their information.

    “It will make it faster, but it will not eliminate the work left to do in making sure that we respond to all of those Vermonters who have made requests,” he said.

    State officials expect some clients will still want a hand with changing information once the online function is deployed.

    “We fully expect that there will be a lot of people who will continue to want assistance in that process and we’ll be able to be more efficient with that,” Larson said. “It’s still going to take a significant effort to respond to everybody.”

    Larson would not provide a specific date when testing will be completed and the system can be upgraded.

    “I think we are hopeful that we will be able to deploy this functionality soon,” he said. “Again, we really have made a significant amount of progress.”

    @Tagline:neal.goswami @rutlandherald.com

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