The most important thing that happened this week

… had nothing to do with the Legislature. Well, it had nothing to do with current legislative debates.

And it went uncovered by the media except for Nancy Remsen of Seven Days.

Four representatives of Optum, the contractor working with the state to fix Vermont Health Connect, told legislative leaders Thursday that they expect to deliver an automated change-of-circumstance function as of the May 31 deadline set by the Shumlin administration.

“We are confident we will make the deadline,” Matt Stearns, vice president of external communications, said in an interview after private sessions with legislators.

This is big, assuming Stearns’ confidence is warranted.

I spend a lot of time on the ins and outs of the legislative and political process. It’s fun, it’s dramatic, and it’s a minefield of slapstickery. But I know that most of it washes out in the end. With the probable exception of the Norm McAllister saga, the world will little note nor long remember what was done here. But Optum making the deadline would be truly impactful.

Well, it’s the other way, really: a failure to hit the deadline would be horribly impactful. It would further undermine public confidence in Vermont Health Connect and the Shumlin administration; it could spark a damaging faceoff between Shumlin and top lawmakers; and it might set the stage for VHC’s ultimate failure. Which, in turn, would have had disastrous consequences for the Democrats in 2016.

All of that goes away if Optum delivers the change-of-circumstance function on time. More accurately, it all goes away at least until November, when the second deadline comes up. But a success in May would have made everyone feel better about the prospects for November. And if Optum hits both targets?

It’d take away one of the Republicans’ top talking points. It’d scrub some of the tarnish off Shumlin’s reputation as a manager. It’d lift the dead weight of VHC off the Democratic Party’s shoulders.

Oh yeah, and it’d provide a functioning health exchange website for the benefit of all Vermonters.

So far, so good. Long way to go.

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