Connector payment system frustrating consumers

BOSTON, FEB. 12, 2015…..The Bay State’s health insurance website is improving but remains a work-in-progress, with an online payment system that is causing frustration for consumers, state officials said Thursday.

Consumers continue to experience long wait times due to heavy volumes at call centers.

“There is significant work left” on informational technology and improving the experience for consumers, said Maydad Cohen, who was tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to overhaul the website after it crashed, creating a backlog of 72,000 paper applications and daily website outages.

The online payment set-up — separate from the Connector’s insurance website — has been “clunkier” than Connector officials wanted and not instantaneous, Cohen said. “We’ve made tweaks throughout,” he said, adding that the payment system will be better integrated with the health insurance site in the next year.

The final day for applying for health insurance in 2015 and picking a plan is Feb. 15. Feb. 23 is the deadline to pay for coverage if a person is in a Health Connector plan.

The Connector is extending the hours of availability for its call center and walk-in offices in order to allow people to complete applications and make payments. If severe weather hits the state over the weekend, the call center will limit operations, and Connector officials urged people to visit the website for updates.

Cohen pointed to enrollment numbers as evidence that the health insurance website is working. Since Nov. 15, 2014, the website has enrolled 338,000 people — 237,741 people in MassHealth and 100,000 in a Health Connector qualified program, and about 100,000 people are left in temporary coverage.

“In 89 days, we’ve been able to accomplish an incredible amount,” he said.

Asked for his take on how the website is faring, Louis Gutierrez, Gov. Charlie Baker’s pick for executive director of the Connector Authority, said, “So performance, fine. Functionality and some defects, lot of work we need to go through this year. As I say, it was a very remarkable accomplishment to get from where the state was a year ago where they are right now. There’s no taking away from that. But there is a very long path forward.”

“There is literally a roster, you know, 75 items deep of the kinds of things that we need to really take the next step on,” he added.

Before she formally took office, Lt. Gov.-elect Karyn Polito said in a December radio interview that the Connector Authority has “serious problems” and said a number of state budget problems stem from the Connector and MassHealth, the state-federal Medicaid program.

Marylou Sudders, Baker’s health and human services secretary who took over as chair of the Health Connector Authority’s board on Thursday, said state officials are “pleased” with the number of people enrolling in health insurance.

“What we want to ensure is that people who are eligible for MassHealth are in MassHealth, people who are eligible for Connector Care are in Connector Care, and people who just want to have health insurance without any subsidies get access,” she told reporters, referring to state-subsidized private health insurance, known as Connector Care.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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