The Shumlin administration says it is "very confident" that a key function of the state's health care exchange will be working by the end of next month. The governor says he'll ask lawmakers to drop the state's exchange and move to a federal model if this deadline isn't met.
One major problem that has plagued Vermont Health Connect since it went into operation 18 months ago is the failure of the system to allow consumers to make online changes to information on their applications.
These so-called "changes in circumstance" could be a change of address, a change in income or a change in family members.
Right now this process is being done manually and it's created a backlog of more than 5,000 cases.
The Shumlin Administration says this situation will be resolved by the end of May. If it's not, the governor will ask lawmakers to drop the state exchange approach and move to a federal model.
Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform for the administration, says he’s very optimistic that the late May deadline will be met. "I'm feeling very confident in the work that's being done right now … Everyone is pulling together in the same direction on an agreed, detailed work plan to get there. So I'm feeling better about this project than I have since I first became associated with it,” he says.
Miller says he has a high level of confidence because the track record of the state's new main vendor, a company called Optum, has been very good over the last 6 months. "Every deadline that we've had since Oct. 1 that we brought Optum on board we've been able to meet and this has been very consistent with them,” says Miller.
It’s critical that this new system meets all of its goals on time, says Miller. “This is our milestone target but we are not going to compromise on quality to meet that date if the testing indicates that we're not ready.”
Miller says the goal is not to have this online system be fully functional at the end of May.
Instead, consumers will still need to call Vermont Health Connect when they want to make changes but workers at the call center will be able to electronically update the individual's application. Miller says this change will make it possible for the state to process many more of these cases in a timely manner.