Health Reform In Connecticut Still At The Mercy of the Feds
Connecticut’s insurance exchange website will continue to be at the mercy of the federal government when it comes to verifying certain pieces of information necessary to complete the application process.
That means when the federal data hub fails, residents in Connecticut won’t be able to sign up for a health plan even though they will still be able to shop and create an account.
Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said Wednesday that Connecticut was aggressive in “trying to be as self-contained as possible,” but at the moment it’s still dependent on the federal hub to verify the information of those applying.
In developing the site, Connecticut’s contractor tried to make sure its site asked the federal hub for as few pieces of information as possible. It was able to reduce the number of services calls or “pings” to the hub for eligibility verification from 14 to 7, Counihan said.
However, he said it can’t be reduced any more than seven times.
He said what Connecticut does do is verify the information being submitted on the website with the federal data hub sequentially when other states tend to send a batch order. So the system is asking the federal hub for information during the application process instead of all at once.
“We speculate that it’s one of the reasons we’ve been a bit more stable,” Counihan said.
But is it secure?
Counihan said there had been five attempts to hack the Access Health CT site and at least two of those attempts came from foreign countries. He said they reported the attacks to the National Security Administration.
“Each attempt was unsuccessful,” Counihan said. “We have a specialist on the staff whose whole job is security.”
News of the attempted hacks come as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced tough questions about the security of the federal website, www.HealthCare.gov, during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. One day before the hearing CNN reported that a cybersecurity expert from Arizona found a way to hack users’ accounts. According to their report the loophole has been fixed.
Sebelius testified that the federal site was pushed out too early, but that it was secure.
It’s unknown how many people have gotten past some of the technical glitches and have been able to actually sign up for a plan through the www.HealthCare.gov website.
In Connecticut, Access Health CT reported enrolling 3,847 people between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15. About half of individuals qualified for Medicaid while the other half chose one of the three private insurance carriers. The White House asked states doing their own exchanges to release enrollment information on a monthly basis. Counihan said the board of directors wasn’t necessarily in agreement with the request and decided it would release the data every two weeks.
That means the next set of enrollment figures will come on Nov. 1, Counihan said.
Asked if Connecticut’s exchange is being impacted by some of the energy in Washington, Counihan said “the answer is yes.”
“It’s hard to quantify what that is, but we know the call center gets calls periodically to talk about the problem with the website,” Counihan said.
But Connecticut’s website, he said, has never been down. He said may have not been able to complete the application process because of problems with the federal hub, but www.accesshealthct.com has never been down.
“Hopefully by Nov. 30th when a lot of these fixes come through a lot of this noise will wind down,” he said.