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Policy: Technology

Vermont changes vendor for troubled health website

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News,Business,Obamacare,Vermont,Health Care,Technology

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state is reducing ties to the contractor that helped design its website that was supposed to be a marketplace where people could compare and buy insurance plans through President Barack Obama's landmark health care law but remains flawed and short of being fully functional, a Vermont official announced Monday.

The state is working with a new company to continue development of the project, said Lawrence Miller, chief of Vermont Health Care Reform, the department that oversees the law's implementation in Vermont.

Intended to allow people and small businesses to sign up for insurance, its site went live almost a year ago yet still cannot provide all its intended functions.

"That is unacceptable to me and we will explore every option and take every step to make this system work for all Vermonters," Miller said in a statement.

He said the state and the firm it limited ties to, CGI, concluded a transition agreement that accounts for work in progress and how much the company will be paid, $57 million so far with an additional $9.7 million for work through Sept. 20. The state and CGI originally signed a contract for $83 million.

Vermont is beginning to work with the health care technology company Optum.

In a statement, CGI said it was proud of the role it played in helping 85 percent of eligible Vermont residents enroll in a health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange.

"With a majority of our exchange development work complete, we look forward to providing ongoing hosting services in Vermont for one of the country's most successful health care exchanges," CGI Vice President Linda Odorisio said.

The company will continue for now to host the website, Miller said; he said hosting hasn't been an issue.

The website went live in October. A series of technical glitches made it impossible for all users to complete all the functions they were supposed to be able to complete on the website.

While improvements have been made, the site is still not fully functional. Small business still can't use it, and customers can't record changes of address or names.

Miller also said the operations and development divisions of Vermont Health Connect are being separated.

About 150,000 Vermonters have helped find health insurance coverage since open enrollment began last fall, said Department of Vermont Health Accession Commissioner Mark Larson.

All the changes were made with the support of officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the state's funding partner. The federal government is paying for 97 percent of the cost of the exchange.

Miller said he thought the root of the problems was the time required for producing a complicated website.

"Every report we've seen ... come(s) to exactly the same conclusion that this was an unworkable timeframe with the scope that was laid out," Miller said.

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