health insurance exchanges

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Mass. To Drop Contractor Behind Flawed Health Insurance Website

Massachusetts is negotiating an end to its contract with CGI, the Canadian vendor that built the state’s flawed health insurance website.

The site was supposed to be up last October, offering one-stop health insurance shopping for anyone in Massachusetts. But six months later, only a few functions work but have glitches, and a few are not usable at all.

Sarah Iselin, a special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick hired to oversee the fixing of the website, has been working with a team of outside contractors from Optum to determine if the CGI project can be fixed.

“That assessment made clear that based on past performance and our current needs, parting ways with CGI is the right course for the commonwealth moving forward,” Iselin said Monday.

In a statement, CGI said it will “work with the Commonwealth to ensure a smooth transition to the next phase of exchange deployment, allowing for the best use of system capabilities already in place.”

Iselin and her team told the Health Connector board they are reviewing two possible remedies: hiring a new vendor to build on working parts of the current site or buying website elements from other insurance exchange sites. Iselin cautions that buying elements will be difficult because Massachusetts has many unique insurance rules, including 263 different factors that determine who is eligible for what type of coverage.

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What Rockin’ Fun A Health Insurance Exchange Can Be

The Rolling Stones in 2006 (Charliecorgan via Wikimedia Commons)

The Rolling Stones in 2006 (Charliecorgan via Wikimedia Commons)

I was listening against my will to my tween daughter’s top-40 station in the car, thinking that it should be illegal to play Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” more than ten times an hour, when suddenly a fresh health-care breeze came across the airwaves. It was a catchy little song that went like this (click on the play button to the right to hear it):

Have a budget to protect?
Then it’s time that you connect
To the Health Connector.
It’s the place to shop and save,
So health care shoppers rave
About the Health Connector.
It’s where
You compare
All health plans side by side.
For the best deal
On how you feel,
Let the Connector be your guide.

Then an announcer said, “Go to MAhealthconnector.org. to shop for health insurance at the state’s Health Connector. It’s the perfect place to compare all leading plans side by side – making it easier to save, and choose the health insurance plan that fits you and your family the best. Open enrollment is July 1st through August 15th. So now’s the time to shop for the health plan that’s right for you…and your wallet.”

My first thought: In the states that are refusing to create health insurance exchanges under Obamacare, if only those grinch-like governors knew what fun an exchange can be! Okay, maybe it’s too much to expect anyone, ever, to get excited about shopping for health insurance, but really, it was a lively little jingle and such an improvement over “Call Me Maybe…”

I expressed my appreciation last week to Connector spokesman Richard Powers, and discovered that I didn’t know half the agency’s wild hijinks. He messaged: Continue reading