Commentary

Lawrence Miller: Vermont Health Connect — the reality

Editor’s note: This commentary by Lawrence Miller, the Shumlin administration’s chief of health care reform, was written in response to a Jan. 24 article about Vermont Health Connect. VTDigger stands behind the accuracy of reporter Erin Mansfield’s story.

[T]he most recent exchange story is an extremely slanted piece of journalism. It does not tell the whole story of Vermont Health Connect, accuses me of lying, and creates an inaccurate perception. This particular column follows repeated factual inaccuracies by VTDigger’s health reporter, adding the new feature of character assassination. I give up. I will not work with her anymore.

First of all, it is incredible that anyone would imply that Vermont’s integrated system for Medicaid and qualified health plan enrollment is in a worse position than it was last year. Vermont Health Connect has successfully processed 21,000 renewals and updated subsidies to appropriate 2016 levels. This is a big deal. Last year, Vermont Health Connect was not able to automatically process these renewals. We are four months ahead of last year in that regard. Vermont Health Connect has also launched its Medicaid redetermination effort, engaging 10,000 Medicaid households each month. In addition, Vermont Health Connect has already mailed customers’ 1095-A forms and is on target to get the 1095-Bs — a brand new form for Medicaid customers — processed and mailed a month and a half ahead of the federal deadline. Vermont Health Connect also continues to smoothly sign up new people for qualified health plans and Medicaid. This comes as 20 states using the federal exchange continue to encounter complications enrolling people in Medicaid using the federal technology.

As for change of circumstance, here are the facts. In October, Vermont Health Connect turned off self-service change of circumstance during the renewal period so that changes would not automatically execute while an account was in the renewal process. Further, Vermont Health Connect suspended all change of circumstance until the year-end process could be completed and validated. This was done to avoid errors, not because of errors. All of that was communicated to the Legislature in testimony and reports. Most recently in a brief update to the House Health Care Committee on Tuesday the 19th I clearly indicated that change of circumstance functionality was still suspended and that technology was to be deployed in the coming week so it could resume. As promised, Vermont Health Connect is now processing change of circumstances again.

If this column is going to entertain the notion of moving to the federal exchange, perhaps it should provide readers the service of presenting the pros and cons of such a proposal. The full report on those alternatives, with detailed appendices, is available on the website of the Joint Fiscal Office.

Building an integrated system for Medicaid and qualified health plan enrollment is not an easy endeavor. Doing it on the federal government’s initial timeline was virtually impossible, as other states and the federal government have also learned, and Vermonters have unfortunately been inconvenienced in this regard. We have never implied otherwise. We have never declared “mission accomplished” but rather have been very consistent in communicating — in every press conference, every hearing — that there is more work to be done.

We have communicated the challenges, we have communicated the real progress that has been made, and we have communicated our expectations for the future. As events occur that impact those expectations, we communicate those developments as well. We will continue to do so.


Commentary

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