Gov. Peter Shumlin, flanked by Cassandra Gekas and Sean Sheehan, both with Vermont Health Connect, gave an update on its progress.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said he has been waiting to be able to say something positive about Vermont Health Connect, the state's online health insurance marketplace that has struggled since its launch in the fall of 2013.
So he called a news briefing Tuesday because he finally had good news. The backlog of cases of Vermonters trying to make changes to their insurance information had been whittled from 10,200 at the end of May to less than 4,500, he said.
And he predicted that the next improvement — automated policy renewal — will be delivered in time for customers to use it to sign up for 2016 insurance coverage beginning November 1.
"I am committed to making Vermont Health Connect work," Shumlin said. Still, his administration has a contingency plan in case the new enrollment technology isn't ready by October 1, the state's deadline. In a backup plan delivered to legislators earlier this month, the administration said it would hire 200 temporary workers at a cost of $3.5 million to manually process renewals.
Lawrence Miller, Shumlin's health reform chief, said the contingency plan represented "what a worst-case scenario would look like." Based on reports from Optum, the state's contractor, he said, "This does not feel like something we are going to need to do."
Neither the governor nor Miller provided a date by which they would decide if they had to go with the backup plan. Shumlin said he is briefed every morning about the work.
The progress in reducing the backlog has been made possible by the successful deployment in late May of an automated "change of circumstance" function for staff. This new capability means that at least half of all new requests for changes can be handled while the customer is on the phone, Shumlin said.
"I'm optimistic about having the backlog cleared up on October 1 when we need it cleared up," Shumlin said.