Saturday, December 16, 2017
Perspective

Healthcare.gov, meet CONNECT, your evil twin website

That government website sure had a horrible launch in October. Glitch after glitch kept people from connecting for services they desperately needed. But wait. Are we talking about HealthCare.gov, and its screw-ups that prevented people from signing up for health insurance? Or do we mean CONNECT, which processes the payments for Florida's 235,000 unemployed claimants? Its terrible launch stymied thousands of recipients seeking the weekly payments of $275 they need for food, rent and transportation. Two websites. Two major debacles. What follows is a tale of the tape for the two. And yes, there will be a quiz.

What is it?

HealthCare.gov: A website designed to create a new system of insurance exchanges for the 36 states, including Florida, which didn't set up their own.

CONNECT: A website that was supposed to modernize Florida's existing jobless claims payment system into a single, integrated web-based information system.

Cost

HealthCare.gov: $319 million to $677 million

CONNECT: $64 million to $68 million

Launch date

HealthCare.gov: Oct. 1, 2013

CONNECT: Oct. 15, 2013

Technical glitches

HealthCare.gov: Long wait times, slow speeds, error messages, inaccurate or incomplete information that leaves applicants unsure of their eligibility, a large number of users unable to use function that allow them to compare plans, about one in 10 enrollment notices contain an error, a Spanish-language website that was not coherent.

CONNECT: Long wait times, slow speeds, error messages, inaccurate or incomplete information that leave claimants in limbo, not knowing their status, resulting in a call volume that's so high not all get answered. Technical problems have slowed review of claims, increasing backlogs causing claimants to wait longer.

Those affected

HealthCare.gov: Just 36,000 of the 3.7 million who attempted to register in the first week were successful. Further difficulties could make it harder for individuals to meet March 31 deadline. If not registered, could face fines if they don't have insurance.

CONNECT: About 235,000 claimants use Florida's system, but glitches prevented thousands from logging on. Florida doesn't keep track of those affected, but U.S. Department of Labor statistics show a drop of 18 percent in ongoing claims, about 20,000 a week, since the website's debut. Claimants say they need the money, up to $275 a week, to cover rent, food, transportation, etc.

Action taken

HealthCare.gov: A management consultant was hired to oversee fixes. CGI Federal will leave the project when its contract expires at the end of February. A new company, Accenture, has been hired.

CONNECT: On Dec. 20, DEO began fining Deloitte $15,000 a day and withheld a $3 million payment. On Jan. 2, DEO announced it was hiring 330 additional staffers to help claimants. On Jan. 14, DEO hired a new company, Capgemini, to consult on project.

Personnel moves

HealthCare.gov: The White House has not specifically fired anyone over the problems at HealthCare.gov, but a chief information officer resigned. The initial contractor, CGI, didn't get contract renewed.

CONNECT: No DEO staff has been disciplined or fired directly as a result of issues with CONNECT, but a legislative liaison handling complaints resigned Jan. 3. The initial vendor is still on the project, but it's getting fined $15,000 a day.

Current status

HealthCare.gov: From Oct. 1 to Dec. 18, 2.2 million Americans, including 158,000 Floridians, chose a plan through the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. While it has improved for most users, some are still experiencing difficulties.

CONNECT: Three out of four claimants receive payments without any difficulties, but cases involving questions that need to be reviewed have slowed considerably, causing the backlogged cases to climb to 60,000, a 25 percent increase.

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