Connector Board Report: "We're ready for the zombie apocalypse if it struck on Saturday"
Open enrollment is just days away, and Thursday's Health Connector board meeting was all about confidence and optimism: "Today we pledge to the Commonwealth's residents who are in need of health insurance that they will be able to access it," declared health website czar Maydad Cohen. The optimism is justified, based on evidence presented to the board of extensive performance testing and analytics. Still, everyone is waiting to see how things unfold on Saturday. But the best comment came from new board member Rick Jakious. He said he had looked at last year's meeting notes, and was struck by the amount of rigor and information the board is seeing now, compared to last fall. He also said that he had visited the Connector/MassHealth enrollment command center (the MOCC; do not mock the MOCC), and concluded that "we're ready for the zombie acopalypse if it struck on Saturday."
Board materials have moved to the betterhealthconnector.com site, here. The key slide presentations were on their eligibility and enrollment processing system readiness (they called it the "Go-Live System Update"), and on the comprehensive outreach and education plan for the upcoming open enrollment. Our full report requires only a click:
The meeting started with the board voting to approve a $300,000 contract with KPMG to perform a federally-required independent program audit of the Connector. This is not financial audit, but rather will review how well the Connector performed in meeting its substantive goals. The audit will include close looks at operations, such as enrollment functionality, call center performance, and privacy and security procedures. It will cover calendar year 2014 and will be completed in early 2015.
Board Member Dolores Mitchell asked if the contractor selection critieria included the state requirement of supporting diversity among contractors. It was not part of the scoring criteria, and Mitchell recommended that it be included in future procurements.
Next, the board turned to the "Go Live System Update" on the HIX - the eligibility and enrollment technology that includes the website and the processing of applications. Cohen assured board members that the new system will be "better, faster and eaiser." He presented the results of their extensive testing, highlighting that the federal government had just granted the state a key approval, called "Authorty to Connect," on Monday.
They also tested the ability of the system to handle the crush of users. They ran scenarios that simulated four times more simultaneous users than anyone expects. The results were also positive, inidcating "the system is ready for go-live" on Saturday at 8:00 am. Board members asked about the "failover" capability, meaning the capacity to seamlessly substitute a working process for a failed component. The site is expected to be up 24 hours a day once it goes live, with maintenance scheduled for the wee morning hours if needed.
Board member Jon Gruber asked about how we would see if issues emerged once the system was in operation. He was assured that there is "sophisticated, real-time monitoring," and that problems would be noticed and addressed quickly.
Board members also asked if users must have a recent version of their internet browser to use the site. The answer is yes, and the system will inform users about this prior to starting an application. The customer service representatives are able to guide a tech-naive user through the steps required to check their browser version and install an update. Their phone number will appear on virtually every page of the application program.
Transparency and Accountability
To keep the public informed, the Connector will post daily and weekly dashboards, displaying enrollment statistics and operational status. The weekly reports will include a geographic breakdown of who is enrolling, allowing the state to deploy resources to areas of greatest need. Initially, there will be daily media briefings, as well as check-ins with insurers and consumer assisters.
This section of the meeting ended with a brief presentation by a number of navigators, and a Commonwealth Care member who is looking forward to re-enrolling when the gates open on Saturday. The Navigators all said they were ready to go and excited for open enrollment to begin, having been extensively trained and prepared.
Outreach and Education
The outreach campaign includes almost 736,000 pieces of mail to people who need to re-enroll, an outbound call campaign that will make around a million robo-calls (73,000 already since November 5), and dozens of events and community programs. Over 300 call agents have been trained and are ready to assist consumers. MassHealth will have 40 more agents in addition to normal staffing for this Open Enrollment period. Normal call center hours during Open Enrollment will be Monday –Friday 7am-7pm and Saturday 9 am-3 pm, but the hours will be extended on some weekends in December, January and February.
There have been 14 stops on the Connector's press tour, with each stop featuring TV, radio and print coverage. More community meetings are scheduled, including big enrollment fairs in Springfield (December 3), Boston (December 9), and Worcester and Fall River in January.
The HCFA outreach campaign will include targeted door-to-door direct contact, as well as an ethnic media and outbound call campaign:
The Connector's message will be everywhere - CVS store flyers, Boston Bruins games (and the Worcester Sharks and Springfield Falcons, too), the Boston Calling festival, and on the T.
The next board meeting is Thursday, December 11, but we'll know how well we are doing long before then.