Governor Deval Patrick today announced a series of actions that will provide a clear path forward to developing a fully functioning website that will give residents easy access to the choice, benefits and expanded subsidies created by the Affordable Care Act. The Governor announced the appointment of Sarah Iselin as a temporary new Special Assistant to the Governor for Project Delivery to lead the consolidated state government management of website functionality, and the formation of a new technology and policy partnership with Optum to complete the Health Connector website. These actions will ensure that Massachusetts will provide excellent online customer service while remaining the national leader in health care reform and coverage.
"The Affordable Care Act builds on our nation-leading health reform law and gives even more of our residents access to quality health care," said Governor Patrick. "Our residents deserve a functional, easy-to-use system to access the health care they need and deserve. To help us get there, I am proud to welcome Sarah Iselin back to our team - a lifelong advocate for access to health care for all of our residents, and an effective manager. Optum has a proven track record of fixing these kind of problems and will take immediate actions to address the website issues and enhance our capacities to perform the necessary workarounds while we repair the website."
Governor Patrick has appointed Sarah Iselin, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Policy and Community Partnerships, and Chief Strategy Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, to serve as a temporary Special Assistant to the Governor for Project Delivery. Iselin, who previously was Director of the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy for the Commonwealth, will be the lead official in charge of overseeing and directing the progress of the IT project going forward. Iselin will report on the site's progress directly to the Governor to ensure unified execution across all state agencies involved so that the residents of Massachusetts using the site have the best and most convenient shopping and coverage experience.
Additionally, Governor Patrick announced that the Commonwealth has contracted with Optum to advise the Commonwealth on and oversee precise short- and long-term action steps that will address the website issues and necessary workarounds. Optum will coordinate efforts to eliminate the backlog of individuals who have had difficulty using the website and help deliver a system that will give our residents convenience and peace of mind when it comes to health care coverage. Optum has a proven track record in this field, playing a similar advisory role for the federal Healthcare.gov website, as well as the websites for exchanges in other states.
"Optum is pleased to have been selected by the Commonwealth to provide advisory support to the Health Connector project," said Andy Slavitt, Group Executive Vice President at Optum. "We are impressed with the tremendous commitment of the Connector and MassHealth staffs, and we look forward to partnering with them in their mission to provide the people of Massachusetts with high-quality, affordable health coverage."
The Governor has also relieved UMass Medical School of all responsibilities for the contract with CGI and assigned those responsibilities to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (ANF). Iselin will serve as the single point of contact on the Commonwealth side for the Optum team and CGI.
The Governor has authorized Optum to bring as much operational support as necessary on immediately to ensure that the people who have applied for coverage through the website and those that will apply in the months ahead are able to navigate from old policies to new ones, whether through the web, a call center or a paper application. In addition, a team with representatives from the Commonwealth will travel to Washington, D.C. on Friday to meet with senior officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to make sure the Commonwealth has the flexibility necessary to complete this transition.
Finally, the Governor has asked Optum and Iselin to develop and share a schedule for regular improvements to the website and customer service operations at the Connector in order to provide long-term, reliable access to health care coverage for all residents.