Tag Archives: change of circumstance

Just what we needed: More bad news on Vermont Health Connect

The headline says it all, thanks to Erin Mansfield of VTDigger:

VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT IS GOING BACKWARD, STAKEHOLDERS SAY

The “stakeholders” are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid, an unlikely pairing to be sure. BCBS is calling for an independent review of the troubled health care exchange, and Legal Aid is fielding scores of complaints from “frustrated consumers.”

“We’re going backwards,” said Trinka Kerr, the chief health care advocate for Vermont Legal Aid. “Towards the end of last year, we were making progress. You could get things straightened out relatively quickly, and now things are more complicated than they used to be.”

Some of Governor Shumlin’s high-profile declarations of victory are now looking inoperative. The “change of circumstance” function, which was supposed to be a benchmark for VHC, had to be taken off line because it simply wasn’t ready to handle the workload. And as a result, the backlog is back!

Yes, VHC has a backlog of change orders numbering about 4,000. To put that number in perspective, VHC has a total of 33,000 customers who buy individual policies through the website.

Now, I stopped being good at math in about the seventh grade, but to me that looks like the backlog amounts to 12 percent of all customers served. Which is, in a word, dreadful.

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Vermont Health Connect: a very conditional victory

So the Governor and a full brace of minions came out Monday morning to announce that Vermont Health Connect had met the first of his two deadlines, or milestones, or benchmarks: the implementation of a change of circumstance feature.

This, after VHC was taken offline for the weekend to install upgrades, a move that prompted premature glee among reform opponents like State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann.

Yeah, not so much.

But the declaration of victory, though sounded loud and clear, came with a handful of asterisks. The Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami:

The upgrade, which is still being phased in by the administration, will allow customer service representatives to make changes to consumers’ accounts in an automated way.

“Still being phased in.” Got it. And…

“It means that we now have the capability, the tool, to be able to change your circumstance when things change for your insurance. And the outcome of that, as we get it up and running, will be a much smoother system that has been evading us since we launched,” Shumlin said.

“… as we get it up and running…” Hmm.

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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.

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