Mass. eyes states with functioning health websites
Mar. 07, 2014
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials struggling to repair the state's hobbled health care website said Friday they're looking at the possibility of leasing or buying technology from states with functioning insurance sites.
Officials said that while they're speeding up the processing of insurance applications, the website still has serious flaws, and may ultimately be scrapped.
Before they take that step, they want to look at other options, including turning to other states where the process is much smoother, according to Sarah Iselin, a special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick working to fix the site's problems.
"We're well aware that while there are states that unfortunately are in a similar position to ours where they don't have a website that is working well or in some cases at all, we're also aware that there are other states that are having a great experience," Iselin said. "Is there any technology that we could leverage, lease, buy from any of those states?"
Iselin said that although the Massachusetts website has "end-to-end functionality" for people pursuing unsubsidized insurance, the story is different for subsidized plans.
She said trying to fix the website by using technology from other states is one of four options being considered. The others include forging ahead with the current website contractor CGI Group, looking for a new vendor, or ditching the website and starting over.
Despite the website troubles, officials say they are making progress whittling down the backlog of people trying to sign up for health insurance.
Iselin said that in the past three weeks the backlog has dropped from 72,000 to 43,000, a decrease of about 40 percent. In the last week the state has moved 14,000 more residents into transitional coverage, bringing that total to 64,000.
She said the drop has come despite increasing interest in insurance. She said the state has been receiving about 2,000 applications a day, half on paper, the other half electronically.
Iselin said hundreds of customer service workers are entering paper applications faster than they're coming in to help the state chip away at the backlog. The call center has been handling more than 4,000 calls a day.
Officials warn that March could be an even busier month.
The deadline to sign up or risk fees for those seeking non-subsidized insurance plans is March 31. People who need insurance by April 1 must select and make a payment on that plan by March 24.
"This is going to be a very busy few weeks ahead as people work to beat the deadline," said Jean Yang, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector.
Many small businesses also renew their insurance plans on April 1. Yang said small businesses can use the website to compare about 100 plans from 10 carriers.
Those seeking subsidized plans in Massachusetts have until June 30 after the federal government granted the state a three-month extension to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.