September 27, 2014

Vermont Public Radio
By Bob  Kinzel

Montpelier — State Auditor Doug Hoffer says an upcoming audit of Vermont Health Connect will reveal if the Shumlin Administration has effectively dealt with many of the problems that have surfaced at the exchange’s website.

The results of the audit could play a critical role in the Legislative debate about the future of health care in Vermont, Hoffer said. It’s been a very difficult year for the state’s health care exchange since it opened its doors for business last October.

The online payment system for small businesses has never worked, and some consumers have encountered long delays to calculate the size of their payments and their subsidies.

In addition, thousands of people are in limbo waiting for the state to process their applications by hand.

Several weeks ago, the Shumlin administration closed the exchange down in an effort to fix the current problems before the next open enrollment period begins in the middle of November.

While there have been several reports detailing what went wrong, Hoffer said he wants his audit to examine if the state has been successful in implementing the recommended solutions.

“We want a comfort level that this is something that we can manage; it’s immense, it’s complex even though the exchange is not the same as single-payer, whatever that’s going to be,” Hoffer said. “So we wanted to look at all those recommendations and whether the state in fact is responding to them as they should.”

Hoffer said the rocky roll-out of the exchange has definitely undermined public confidence in the state’s ability to put a single-payer system in place in 2017.
“I feel that way as a citizen and I think a lot of people feel the same way,” Hoffer said. “So that’s why we’re trying to help. It’s that important.”

Hoffer said he hopes to have the audit done by the end of March or the beginning of April. He’s shooting for this deadline because he says the conclusions of the audit will play an important role in the legislative debate over single payer.

“The intent is for it to be helpful. We want to inform the debate about these issues that’s the whole idea we can only do it as quickly as it can be done,” Hoffer said. “There are no short cuts; you have to meet the government auditing standards, so it will take as a long as it takes”

Hoffer has informed the Shumlin administration that the focus of the audit could change based on the information that is gathered in the initial stage of the review.