Despite Continued Health Site Troubles, Progress Made On Applicant Backlog

Massachusetts health care officials struggling to repair the state's hobbled website are looking at the possibility of leasing or buying technology from states with functioning insurance sites.

Gov. Deval Patrick's special assistant, Sarah Iselin, said Friday that looking for solutions from other states is just one of four options being weighed.

(Click to view the full Mass. health exchange dashboard update on Scribd)
(Click to view the full Mass. health exchange dashboard update on Scribd)

Others include forging ahead with the current website contractor CGI Group, looking for a new vendor that would build on the existing site, or scrapping the website and starting over.

Despite the website troubles, officials say they are making progress whittling down the backlog of people trying to sign up for health insurance, even though the number of applications for subsidized coverage has doubled since last week.

Residents who apply for help with insurance payments will receive temporary coverage which is good through June 30. There are now 62,000 people in this program and roughly 120,000 more people who must be moved from their extended Commonwealth Care plans into permanent coverage.

Confusing? Yes, and messy. The Connector is supposed to determine who is eligible for subsidies this year, and get everyone into a new insurance plan by the end of June. But the digital tool that looks for a match between all these people and the state's 260 eligibility programs is still not working.

Iselin says she may ask the federal government for another extension.

In the meantime, those 120,00 residents who have subsidized health insurance may have to switch plans by the end of March. Some insurers who extended their Commonwealth Care plans say they may not be able to extend them again because they are losing too much money or because contracts with hospitals and physicians have expired.

Connector director Jean Yang says she plans to finalize agreements with insurers who can participate this weekend. The Connector expects to send out mailings to all of the Commonwealth Care members early next week, which will tell them whether they will be able to stay with their existing plan or be asked to switch to another one.

How is all this costing the state? Iselin says she'll have some numbers next week.

With reporting by WBUR's Martha Bebinger and The Associated Press.


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