BOSTON — The board overseeing the state’s health care exchange was told Thursday that a long-term fix for its troubled website was still months away, even while Massachusetts reported progress in clearing the backlog of applicants for subsidized insurance.
“We are not going to have everything we want for the fall,” said Sarah Iselin, the health care executive who was tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee a fix to the problems that caused Massachusetts – the pioneering state in universal health insurance – to become one of the lowest-performing states in transitioning to the federal health insurance overhaul law.
Iselin said she would present the board with recommendations next month for how to achieve a functional website by the start of the next open enrollment period that is scheduled to begin Nov. 15, with the goal of achieving “minimal compliance” with the law’s requirements by that time. A more robust system would not likely be available until sometime next year.
Iselin announced last month that the state was cutting ties with its website vendor CGI Group, which had received a $69 million contract last year to help facilitate the transition from the state’s first-in-the-nation health insurance system to the new federal program.
Still to be determined, Iselin said, is whether the state will sign on with a new vendor to redesign the website or import technology from another state with a successful health exchange.
“The clock is ticking and we have a lot of work to do,” Iselin told reporters after the meeting. “We don’t think that not having a functional (system) is an option, and in order to achieve that goal we just have to be really practical and pragmatic about what has to be done for that transition.”
The federal government granted Massachusetts a three-month extension until June 30 from the federal government’s original March 31 enrollment deadline. The state plans to seek an additional three-month extension until the end of September, Iselin said.
The website glitches had forced the connector to adopt a series of manual workarounds, creating a backlog of 50,000 paper applications that has since been alleviated, officials said.
New figures released by the connector Thursday showed that the state had enrolled 234,000 people in subsidized insurance during the first federal open enrollment period, though about 159,000 of those has been placed in temporary Medicaid coverage so they would not be without health care while their long-term eligibility was determined.
Iselin, meanwhile, is nearing the end of her planned four-month appointment and said she planned to return to her former job at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, likely in late May or early June. It was not immediately clear whether the administration would name a replacement.