Can This Woman Fix The Health Connector? Please?

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WBUR reports that Gov. Deval Patrick is appointing an executive from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to help fix problems with the state’s Health Connector insurance website, which has recently been plagued with technical and other glitches that have frustrated and infuriated users:

Blue Cross chief strategy officer Sarah Iselin worked for the state during the rollout of the 2006 health care law. In addition, the state will also hire a Minnesota-based health care systems firm to help with fixes to the Connector site.

The governor says Massachusetts residents who are on temporary health insurance coverage will know by next week if they can be moved to a permanent plan. (The temporary plans were needed because of technical problems with the Health Connector website.)

In addition, State House News reports:

The administration is also hiring Optum to advise them on short-term and long-term fixes to the site and to help clear the backlog of people who have tried to sign up for insurance but encountered technical barriers. Patrick was discussing the administration’s efforts to repair the site Thursday morning at the state office building at One Ashburton Place. Iselin is chief strategy officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and was previously president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. The Connector Authority on Thursday also released the findings of MITRE, a consultant hired to examine the site and ways for the authority to move forward.

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger was at the governor’s news conference and reports:

The Health Connector site is still not working properly four months after it was revised to meet new federal rules. Governor Patrick has hired a special assistant to guide the fix and an outside IT firm to review progress. Patrick apologized to everyone who has tried to sign up for coverage. He says he knows people are frustrated.

“We’re not going to let anybody go without insurance. It’s not going to happen,” the governor said. “We have a moral obligation and an obligation in the law and a commitment to doing so.”

Patrick says he doesn’t expect the state will need to spend more than the $69 million already budgeted. He says starting from scratch at this stage would be difficult.

Stay tuned for more developments. At 3 today, Radio Boston’s Carey Goldberg will try get into the details of how Iselin plans to tackle the Connector problems.

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  • Cynth

    “We’re not going to let anybody go without insurance. It’s not going to happen,” the governor said.

    Someone should tell the Governor that this has already happened and continues to happen. People are deferring medical care because they no longer have coverage.

    The previous Connector system worked well and they only needed to modify it to comply with the ACA. Instead, they decided to spend over $68m on a new site, put UMass Medical School in charge, and employ different contractors. With such a complex system and stakes so high, why they tampered with a system that worked and was a model for the nation is beyond comprehension.

  • Dennis Byron

    Some one from Massachusetts Blue Cross would seem to be ideal because it appears that Blue Cross did not participate in either Commonwealth Care in the past (I can only look at the last three years but I think that statement applies right back to 2007) and Blue Cross is not involved in Connector Care now. So no preconceived notions about 90%-95% of the activity on the web site (Blue Cross is selling policies through the new web site to the relatively small set of people who do not qualify for Connector Care but do qualify for subsidies as it did for that relatively small set of Massachusetts residents who paid full price for Commonwealth Choice between 2007 and 2013.)

    • Cynth

      Iselin is a good choice because she has the requisite government and industry experience, not because or in spite of her role with BCBS MA (which, btw, offered plans under the previous Connector, as well, way back to its inception in 2007). Blue Cross still offers plans under the new system. Whether BCBS has offered plans on the Choice or Care sides is also irrelevant, since they are both under the Health Connector umbrella.

      Let’s just hope that Iselin has been given the leeway she needs and that aspects of the system can be overhauled without costing the state — and Connector members — too much time and money.

      • Dennis Byron

        It is very relevant whether she has experience with Choice but not Care (or to be more precise, relevant that she is not a competitor with the companies offering the new Care plans). As I said, BC offered Choice plans and the new analogous HPQ plans but to best of my knowledge never offered the old Care plans (if I am wrong, please tell me which year) and definitely does not offer the new Care plans.

        The fact that both are under the Health Connector umbrella is what is irrelevant. The two were/are presented entirely differently.
        – To get the old Care, you had to first apply for MassHealth and get turned down. This might take weeks. Then they gave you a password and you went on to the website and picked from a couple of suppliers offering exactly the same policies. This is not how an exchange works… not the wait, not the lack of choice, not the admin intensive activity before you are insured
        – The new system is supposed to work like a true exchange — combining all the steps and all the options — new Care and HPQ — and letting the user do it in minutes rather than weeks — and I assume that is why it is not working (However the new Care choices, which most people will get at like a 5:1 ratio, are still very limited in terms of choice).