by Morgan True vtdigger.org Vermont expanded its contract with technology firm Optum by $14.3 million last week, further cementing its role as the company that will likely complete the underperforming Vermont Health Connect exchange. The exchange website is currently down for maintenance and to allow the state to address security issues. It lacks an automated tool for users to update their coverage or personal information, and small businesses mandated into the exchange have never been able to use the website.
State officials have said not to expect those functions to be there when the site is brought back online, sometime before open enrollment, which begins Nov. 15.
Optum is helping the state prepare for a rush of traffic during open enrollment, when many existing users will renew coverage and new users are expected to create accounts.
It’s unclear whether Vermont will contract with Optum to build the exchange’s remaining functions, and state officials were not immediately available to comment on the revision.
The total amount Optum can earn is now $29.4 million on a contract that currently runs through the end of January 2015. The revision, signed Oct. 10, dates back to Sept. 15.
Optum’s contract is described by state officials as “open-to-buy” or a “time and materials” contract, meaning it can be expanded as needed. The latest revision is the second time Optum’s contract has been expanded since the company was hired as a consultant in June.
Its original $5.6 million contract was expanded by $9.5 million in August when Optum was tasked to manage the state’s transition away from the tech firm CGI, and ensure the state is prepared for open enrollment Nov. 15.
Vermont paid CGI $67 million of an $84 million contract, but CGI left significant portions of the exchange unbuilt. CGI also failed to help the state reduce security risks identified by the feds or improve the site’s usability to the terms of its contract.
The unresolved security issues forced the state to take Vermont Health Connect offline in mid-September, and Optum and the state workers are using the window to perform maintenance and improve the site’s usability, officials have said.
As of Sept. 3, Vermont has spent more than $100 million of its $171 million federal Affordable Care Act earmark building and supporting the Vermont Health Connect exchange.