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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

August 28, 2014 at 1:04 PM

As many as 1 in 5 exchange enrollees affected by technical problems, staff concedes

A lack of transparency in describing and fixing technical problems became an issue in Thursday’s Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting.

Board member Bill Hinkle grew testy at what he said was mutual staff back-patting and excuses for the problems still plaguing thousands of accounts.

 “C’mon you guys, let’s quit blowing smoke here,” Hinkle said. “I’m tired of patting people on the back….We’re not doing great yet.”

Board member Teresa Mosqueda pressed staff for numbers of enrollees affected by technical problems.

“We really need to have the data in front of us to manage some of these issues,” she said. “I’m going to ask this question again ­– what is the total number of individuals affected by this, so we have a sense of how well we’re doing?”

The answer appeared to stun some board members: Glitches and technical problems have affected as many as 28,000 people trying to buy health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder online marketplace, said associate operations director Brad Finnegan.

In answer to a question, Finnegan conceded that that means one out of every five people has had a problem.

But about 18,000 accounts, affecting 21,600 individuals, have been resolved by hand, Finnegan said, with from 3,000 to 5,000 accounts still outstanding. Operations Director Beth Walter said most of the top issues will be addressed in a major fix on Aug. 30.

Even so, Hinkle and others questioned what they characterized as a slow response to technical problems with accounts apparent as early as January. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler chimed in, as well, asking why it took so long to pull together the insurers and the exchange’s IT vendor, Deloitte.

Kreidler recently opened a special enrollment option for people who have had trouble enrolling through Healthplanfinder.

“It’s a culture of transparency I need,” said Hinkle. “I want people to be accountable.”

Pam MacEwan, the exchange’s chief of staff, said the exchange is moving from a “startup” culture to a “sustainable” culture.

Ron Sims, board chairman, said he wants to create an “interactive war-room culture” that quickly identifies any potential problem “and gets right on top of it.”

 

Comments | Topics: Bill Hinkle, Teresa Mosqueda, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

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