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Boston and Beyond

May 9, 2014

Mass. Connector approves $121M plan to fix website

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Connector Board voted 10-1 yesterday to approve a plan to fix its broken health insurance signup site. The plan calls for the authority to hire a new vendor to build a workable site, with the federal health exchange serving as a backup in case the vendor’s site is not satisfactory.

The timeline calls for both sites to be up and running in the fall, in time for the next open enrollment period in November.

Sarah Iselin, who was tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee the overhaul of the signup site, led a two-hour presentation to board members, laying out the plan. State officials have ruled out other options, such as using technology deployed in states like Connecticut and Rhode Island.

“Putting all the eggs in one basket” is too high-risk, she said. “The reality is, this is it,” she added.

The cost estimate for the dual-track plan is $121.1 million, and officials are working to determine how much will be funded by federal officials, Iselin said. Much of the money -- $55.9 million - is slated to go toward hCentive, a Virginia firm that has helped with similar websites in Kentucky and Colorado. The cost estimate assumes a steady state of 307,000 enrollees.

Iselin, who is returning to her private sector post at Blue Cross Blue Shield in early June, cautioned that the cost estimate was based on “best, reasonable guesses.” “There are still things we don’t know,” she said.

State officials are seeking to disentangle themselves from CGI, the contractor behind the current, troubled health care site that has frustrated scores of individuals trying to sign up for insurance.

Jean Yang, the Connector Authority’s executive director, said the two-pronged strategy to fix the site is “incredibly complex and aggressive.” “We are dying to work. We are literally in a race right now,” she said.

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