State Senator Asks For Hearing Regarding Access Health CT Problems

December 19, 2013

Article by Matthew Sturdevant, as it appeared in The Hartford Courant
December 19, 2013

HARTFORD — A state senator Wednesday called for a legislative hearing into what he said were “unanswered questions” about the rollout of Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health exchange, drawing a strongly worded rebuttal from the head of the organization.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Republican from Stratford, cited misinformation on the group’s website in October and said “numerous” people have told him they had problems signing up for medical coverage on the site.

He had a press conference at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday to call on the Connecticut General Assembly’s insurance and real estate committee to hold a public hearing so the head of the health exchange could respond to “unanswered questions.”

The misinformation on the website, which the exchange has acknowledged, concerned deductibles and co-insurance that affected all 19 individual health plans from three insurance companies when the exchange opened for enrollment on Oct. 1.

Access Health CT’s CEO Kevin Counihan has said his staff learned of the website problem on Sept. 26 and worked with the Connecticut Insurance Department on an appropriate remedy: several warnings on the website about the incorrect information, letters to 2,408 people who bought plans while the site had misinformation, and phone calls to everyone who provided their number while applying.

“I was very disappointed to find out last week that 2,400 Connecticut residents in October were given incorrect information,” Kelly said.

Later Wednesday, Access Health CT released a statement giving a point-by-point response to Kelly’s criticisms.

“All people who selected a plan during October received phone calls, as well as written letters, from the exchange, telling them there were errors in the screens and that they could pick a different plan if they wanted,” it said.

The problematic website screens were fixed by Oct. 30, the exchange has said.

Concerning Kelly’s claim of usability issues, the exchange said: “The assertion that the AHCT web site is plagued with errors is simply false. Daily web site traffic regularly tops 13,000 visitors, and currently more than 1,400 people are successfully completing online enrollment every day.

“AHCT has long acknowledged that the roll out of a web site of this complexity would undoubtedly have challenges that need to be worked through once live. AHCT witnessed a successful launch of a stable web site on October 1st, and since that time has been pro-active in addressing web performance issues which will enhance the customer experience. Regular releases of web enhancements are calendared, and the issues they address are regularly communicated publicly in forums such as AHCT board meetings.”

The exchange also said Wednesday that it is “consistently recognized as a national leader in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act with 72 percent of enrollees either ‘extremely likely’ or ‘very likely’ to recommend Access Health CT to a friend or colleague as of Dec. 16.

In order for the legislature’s insurance committee to have a public hearing, it would have to be called by both co-chairs, state Rep. Robert Megna, a Democrat from New Haven, and state Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, a Democrat from Woodbridge. Megna said in a phone interview that he would talk to Crisco about having a follow-up to an informational meeting the committee held on Nov. 22.

“It makes sense to have a follow-up anyway,” Megna said.

Last week, after news reports about the health exchange website problem were published, the news website posted a video of Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, chair of the Access Health CT board, saying on Oct. 1 that the site was accurate.

She made her comments during a ribbon cutting to launch the exchange. A reporter asked Wyman if there was “information in the database, if you go online, that’s not accurate at the moment.” Wyman replied, “No, we believe everything is accurate at the moment.” She went on to say that Access Health CT would be checking up on people who enroll to make sure they understood the program.

On Wednesday, Wyman said, “I might have used the wrong words. So, I apologize about that. You know, we were just so excited, to be honest with you, on Oct. 1, that we were up and running and that people were calling in.”

She said, “There wasn’t anything of hiding it, or any of that, because it [the warning] was on the website. … I just didn’t address [the question] the way I should have addressed it.”