Shumlin calls for outside review of health exchange rollout



MONTPELIER -- Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday called for a third-party review of the troubled Vermont Health Connect rollout, but critics say they worry the investigation might lack teeth.

An independent reviewer, to be chosen by the administration, will look at how the state can change its approach, staffing and management structures to avoid the same mistakes on future projects, Shumlin said.

The review was prompted by a series of technical glitches plaguing the state’s online health insurance market since its launch Oct. 1.

Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson has issued a work request to a list of preferred vendors -- contractors with whom the state has a pre-existing relationship, Larson said Tuesday when called before the House Health Care Committee.

A request for quotes was sent out Tuesday to four companies -- Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker, Competitive Computing, AdvizeX Technologies and 22nd Century Technologies -- to bid on the review work.

Rep. Douglas Gage, R-Rutland, said he believes that hiring from the pool of preferred vendors to review the rollout would compromise the integrity of the process.

"Independent to me is someone that’s going to show us the good, bad and the ugly," said Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, who also expressed concerns about the review.

In a rare appearance before the House and Senate health care committees, Shumlin took full responsibility for the rocky rollout of Vermont’s health care exchange, but said it won’t affect the state’s movement toward a publicly funded universal health care system.

"No one is more disappointed than I am that we fell short in our rollout of the exchange, and I take responsibility for those failures," Shumlin said. He later added that he has never been more committed to "ushering in America’s first universal affordable publicly financed health care system right here in Vermont."

While shouldering responsibility for the rollout, Shumlin saved some of the blame for CGI, saying "the contractors we hired to build it have underperformed at every turn."

The last time a governor came to give testimony before a legislative committee was during the tenure of Gov. Howard Dean, and it happened to be on the same topic, according to Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln.


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