Problems continue to plague Vermont Health Connect. The Shumlin administration says it will be at least another two months before an online, automated system is in place to allow consumers to make changes to their health care policies.
And the number of people who are affected by this delay has grown dramatically in the past month.
Here's how the system was supposed to work. A person who buys a policy on Vermont Health Connect would go to its website and electronically enter information to update their application. It could be a change of address, a change in income that could affect their subsidy, or even a change in coverage.
These cases are known as "change in circumstance" applications. But the online system has never worked, and so the state has been processing these forms by hand.
At one point, there was a backlog of more than 15,000 cases. But the state hired more people to work at its call center and over a period of months the number decreased to several hundred.
Lawrence Miller, the chief of health care reform for the Shumlin administration, says the number has now grown to over 6,000 cases because many individuals used the recent open enrollment period to update their personal information.
"This is really quite frustrating for all involved,” Miller says. “But it is in process. People are getting the change retroactive to the date they needed and it will eventually be sorted out, but it is a painful process as it has been for the last year."
Miller says the goal was to have the online system in place at the beginning of next month, but he says that deadline has been pushed back.
"April had been our original target date,” Miller says. “When the work plan was fully developed and laid and agreed with the contractor, it was determined that they needed a few more weeks to complete that work with assurance. So now we're expecting by the end of May."
Miller says the new system will also be phased in. Initially, consumers will still need to contact the call center to update their information. But workers at the center will be able to use the online system to process the application.
"What we have learned from our experience at Vermont Health Connect is that these things should be done in steps, and you should make absolutely sure that everything works on the back end before deploying it to all users,” Miller says.
Miller says he's confident that the new online system will be up and operating by the end of May.