The problems plaguing the in development, Obamacare-compliant, Massachusetts Health Connector website are worse than previously thought, and have resulted in the Health Connector Authority developing manual back up systems. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, that “the site exchange [MAHealthConnector.org] has yet to enroll a single Massachusetts resident in an insurance program.” A statistic confirmed by the Health Connector Authority this afternoon.
As previously reported on this blog, the Health Connector Authority budgeted $69M to revamp the Health Connector Authority’s website to be Obamacare-compliant. This is in contrast to the $3.5M it cost to develop the Commonwealth’s Romney Care exchange.
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In an emailed statement to Red Mass Group Health Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts confirmed the existence of the manual workaround, “First enrollment information files went to carriers yesterday. That was through the alternative pathway created by the Health Connector. The vendor has not completed the automated process.”
The transfer of files to insurers happened less than a week before the first premium payments are due to those insurers for unsubsidized plans which need to be paid on Monday December 23, 2013 in order for insurance to begin on January 1, 2014.
Making matters worse, Health Care for All a progressive community organizing group, that is receiving $2.8M in grants to promote the Obamacare roll-out in Massachusetts is providing conflicting information on it’s blog regarding unsubsidized health care plans.
What about the people that are losing health insurance coverage on December 31st or are currently uninsured?
The Health Connector and MassHealth have made a commitment to ensuring that folks are covered on January 1st, 2014. The details of this coverage are still being worked out, but we wanted to let our readers know so that the public is as informed as possible and hopefully to ease some anxiety.
Red Mass Group contacted the Health Connector Authority after reading this blog post yesterday. Lefferts, the authority’s spokesman, again confirmed that unsubsidized plans have no extensions, “[the lack of an extension] hasn’t changed. Commonwealth Choice members whose plans expire on Dec. 31 must re-enroll. Only those with Dec. 31 expiration dates have to do something this month. It’s a month-by-month thing through the end of open enrollment, and then anyone with expiration March 31 or later has to take action by the end of March. It’s less than 1,000 people for Dec. 31.”
There are 1000 people who have not been able to sign up for coverage through the Health Connector Website, who if they can’t use the manual workarounds by Monday December 23, 2013 will lose their coverage.
Health Care for All in that blog post yesterday is still telling people to sign up online at the website, which has not worked.
There are four ways to get health insurance for January 1st:
Apply online at mahealthconnector.org
Apply over-the-phone by calling 877-MA-ENROLL (877-623-6765)
Apply via paper application here for help paying for health insurance or here for health insurance with no subsidy
Apply in-person with a navigator or certified application counselor. See the list of them here.
Ari Fertig, a spokesman for Health Care for All, has been contacted for comment, and has thus far refused comment to Red Mass Group.
Charlie Baker, Republican Candidate for Governor and former Health Care Executive, told The Boston Herald earlier this week that the website woes are unnaceptable and fall as much on Connector Authority staff as the vendor.
“I’ve been involved in both public-sector and private-sector launches. They really require constant vigilance,” Baker told the Herald yesterday about Gov. Deval Patrick’s website rollout. Patrick was criticized last week for jetting off to Japan as the site stumbled.
“You should be so far up their shorts that they know you are there every day … you should never be surprised about what happens on a launch,” said Baker, due to appear on Boston Herald Radio’s “Trending Now” show today with Joe Battenfeld and Adriana Cohen….
…”There really shouldn’t be an inch of daylight between the vendor and the client,” said Baker, a former Harvard Pilgrim CEO and head of administration and finance under former Gov. William Weld. “If there is an ocean of separation between the vendor and the client, that’s an indicator of a serious problem.”
The Health Connector Authority has threatedned to suspend payments to CGI, the contractor hired to build the Obamacare-compliant exchange. The decision will be made, according to Health Connector spokesman Lefferts, at the next board meeting. That meeting is scheduled for the middle of January.
Correction: a previous version of this story stated that the Health Connector had stopped payments to CGI.