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home : news : regional September 15, 2014

Report Faults Management Of Vermont Health Connect

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The new contractor hired to fix Vermont's troubled health care website said Friday the project's management structure contributed to failures that still plague the system almost a year after it went live.

Optum said the lines of responsibility between the state and contractor CGI were not clear so no one was closely making sure the terms of the contract were being met. The health technology group based its report on a study it did in June.

A CGI spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state announced in early August it was scaling back its relationship with CGI, 10 months after the launch of Vermont Health Connect. The web-based program was supposed to manage Vermont's health insurance marketplace, but has been plagued by problems.

Among them were a continuing inability to enroll small businesses and the failure of the website to handle consumers' changes, such as marriage or divorce, the birth of a child or a new job.

Vermont Health Connect staff members have resorted to making the changes manually. Lawrence Miller, director of health care reform for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said the backlog peaked in June at about 14,500. He said he doubted the problems with the system would be fixed before February, when an open enrollment period for the second year of Vermont Health Connect ends.

He said the Vermont Health Connect staff would need to focus attention on the new enrollment period beginning in November. Trying to make the changes while handling the open enrollment period would be "imprudent and risky," Miller said.

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Miller noted that Vermont was one of many states that struggled to get a health care exchange system off the ground in time to meet an Oct. 1 launch called for in the federal Affordable Care Act.

The Optum report also pointed to the tight time-frame.

"The project's aggressive schedule necessitated increased collaboration and rigorous processes," it said. "Instead, CGI proceeded with project activities without the appropriate (state) participation and without project management processes and controls that follow industry best practices."

Vermont spent about $71 million of federal money on the exchange by the time it decided to reduce CGI's role. Miller said CGI would continue to provide computer servers and the system's Internet connections, but would not work anymore on developing the software that controls how consumers interact with the system.

The software being used for the parts of the system in place now is sound, both Miller and Optum said.

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