Will state health plan computers be set?

Published 10:20 am Friday, July 26, 2013

ST. PAUL — The people developing the complex computer systems that will power Minnesota’s health insurance exchange say one way they’re coping with tight deadlines is by deferring some less critical work until after the online marketplace goes live on Oct. 1.

Exchange officials will delay the rollout of certain functions that aren’t essential to be running on Day 1. They will focus on making sure people can sign up for coverage when open enrollment begins, said April Todd-Malmlov, executive director of MNsure. The coverage doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1.

“It is a lot of work to get done in a short time, We want our vendors to focus on priorities,” Todd-Malmlov said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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So the delayed functions will be added in a series of software upgrades planned for later this year and for early next year.

One function that will be delayed is the ability for an enrollee to update their coverage to reflect a life event such as the birth of a baby, or to add a spouse if they get married.

“We’re not going to need that on October 1st because coverage isn’t effective until January 1st,” she said, adding that that particular function probably will be added in February or March.

Another delay will affect people currently enrolled in public health care programs such as Medicaid. They’ll initially be enrolled in a default insurance plan and sent a notice saying that they can change plans once that upgrade is complete, she said.

Speaking at a legislative oversight hearing Monday, Todd-Malmlov laid out MNsure’s timeline for getting the system ready for its public debut Oct. 1. She said they’re building “much more than just a website” because the various components need to perform a wide range of functions and connect with other state, federal and vendor systems.

“Getting something up of this magnitude in the period of time that we have is a major lift,” she said.

The final software “code drop” from vendors is planned for the end this month, with systems integration and testing work planned for August into September, and fixing of known bugs planned through September, she said.

Functions will be added and bugs that crop up will be fixed in software upgrades pre-planned for December and January, in February and March, and before the second open enrollment period begins in October 2014, she told the panel.

Todd-Malmlov said in the interview that few if any of the software delays should inconvenience consumers.

“There really shouldn’t be any impact on the consumers’ experience at all,” she said.