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1st hearing held to fix healthcare website glitches

In response to recent complaints about the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s troubled healthcare website, Sarah Iselin, special assistant to the governor for project delivery, spoke to the Committee on Health Care Financing on Wednesday making a commitment to finding quick solutions to the website’s glitches and providing open communication throughout the process.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick apologized at a press conference on Feb. 6 for the inconveniences caused by the website. Iselin, who was appointed to the position of special assistant the same day, promised to begin making progress immediately and hold weekly briefings to keep the public informed.

“What makes this all the more difficult is the fact that we began in a position of strength when it comes to health care access and coverage,” Iselin said at a Wednesday hearing. “While it is important to recognize these milestones, it is no secret that some significant parts of the implementation have gone poorly, resulting in confusion, frustration and delays in securing coverage.”

Blue Mass. Group, a progressive blog that focuses on Massachusetts politics, published a blog post Tuesday that said the governor promises no one will lose coverage due to the website’s faults, but there are several stories of people who are already lacking the healthcare they need.

“Mostly I’m troubled by the Governor’s use of the word ‘inconvenience’ to describe the wrenching situations that some folks find themselves in with regard to the site’s malfunctioning,” said Blue Mass. Group co-founder Charley Blandy. “It’s worse than that.”

Blandy said he hopes Iselin will find a solution to the website’s glitches, but he does not know if any individual can resolve the complicated problem.

“I have no way of knowing whether Ms. Iselin will bring the situation to heel,” he said. “It’s a complex situation. I wish her all the luck in the world.”

Jason Lefferts, director of communications at Massachusetts Health Connector, said the time needed to fix the website’s problems is been unfortunate, but it is necessary to provide residents with an effective healthcare system.

“Our goal throughout the transition to the Affordable Care Act has been to maintain Massachusetts’ position as the national leader in health care, while expanding the ranks of the insured,” he said. “Due to the IT system’s constraints, we have had to devote significant time and energy to ensuring everyone who applies for coverage has it.”

Some residents said they have been frustrated with the website over the past few weeks and feel unsettled about their tentative health insurance plans.

Eric Borden, 26, of Kenmore, said he has called the connector several times because he was unable to apply through the website, but he has yet to receive a response.

“I was told I was going to get an email back from IT [but] I never received the email [and] I still haven’t gotten anything,” he said. “It’s been about a month, month-and-a-half and I have no status update on whether or not I’m covered. I called last week and was told to call Mass. Health to see if I could get temporary coverage and when I called them they said they had no record of my application or anything.”

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