Insurance Exchange web portal needs work

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The access health CT (formerly the CT Health Insurance Exchange) web portal got a chilly reception from stakeholders at its first demonstration Wednesday. The web portal is the foundation of the state’s health reform efforts. People searching for coverage, in public programs or private insurance, will be directed to the website. The audience of brokers and consumer advocates had many concerns. The slides were very difficult to see. There were 34 webpages estimated to take over 50 minutes to complete to get to the point of a determination of what people qualify for. There were numerous places where the wrong answer would disqualify applicants. Terms were not adequately explained, i.e. Are you offered affordable coverage at work? Only four slides were devoted to comparing health plan offerings. All 75 exchange plan offers will be displayed, prioritized by price, but there is an option to filter in several ways. Unfortunately the quality filter is only by NCQA rankings – every CT plan now has a B rating (80 to 90 points) with little meaningful difference between them. People are told as they start each section what documents they will need, requiring several stops, and making it very difficult to navigate the system anywhere but at home. Using Social Security Numbers to link to a federal data hub including income information, credit bureau reports, citizenship, DMV, and other sensitive sources raises privacy concerns. Help cues are links out off the page. The process requires people to estimate their incomes and itemize deductions for both 2013 and 2014 at the end of 2013 – very difficult for low-income, often hourly workers often with more than one job. If a family member is eligible for Medicaid, at the end of all this they are shifted to the DSS Medicaid application system as it exists now. Advocates raised numerous concerns that the system did not fully explain people’s rights and risks. Exchange staff and consultants noted that they are collecting feedback and revising the system.