Minnesota: hCentive to the rescue?

As everyone who's been following the ACA over the past few years knows, the October 2013 launch of HealthCare.Gov and 16 state-based marketplace websites was not one of the prouder moments in the Obama administration's history. The federal exchange (which covered 35 states at the time) was a disaster out of the gate, as well about half of the state-based websites.

Over the past three Open Enrollment Periods, of course, most of the technical headaches have been worked out of most of the sites. HealthCare.Gov operates like a dream now (update: well, relatively speaking, anyway) and major improvements have been made in most of the state exchanges as well. In 5 cases, the solution was to either scrap the original platform and start over (Maryland and Massachusetts) or to say "to hell with it", drop their own platform completely and move home to the Mothership (Oregon and Nevada in 2015; Hawaii starting this year). Washington State kept their own platform but gave up trying to handle billing for their enrollees, joining just about every other state in letting the carriers handle payments directly.

However, some problems are still lingering at some of the 13 remaining SBMs (which will drop down to just 12 next year, although the latest casualty in Kentucky is purely a political one). To the best of my knowledge, the two states still having the worst headaches are Vermont and Minnesota.

Well, today in Minnesota at least, it looks like help may be on the way:

MNsure considers outsourcing tech issues to private company

After years of struggling with glitchy computer systems, MNsure leaders are beginning to consider another path: paying someone else to handle the health insurance exchange’s technology.

A task force report finalized in January recommended leaders consider privatizing part of MNsure, but matters took another step forward Wednesday when MNsure’s board got an impromptu sales pitch from a vendor.

Michael Sasko, a vice president at hCentive, told MNsure CEO Allison O’Toole and its seven-member board about the work his company does managing exchanges for New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Kentucky and Arkansas. In some of those states, hCentive took over after technology problems.

“We came into Massachusetts on Year 2 after a failed first year and were able to establish, after a very short period of time, a very functional exchange that also met a lot of the same requirements Minnesota has,” Sasko said.

Full disclosure: I've become pretty good friends with an hCentive employee, but that has nothing to do with this post; I write pretty often about tech developments (good and bad) across the various exchanges, so this is a happy coincidence. I haven't a clue whether their solution would be any better or worse than whoever else MNsure is considering.

I was aware that hCentive cleaned up the mess in Massachusetts, and I think I knew that they were involved in Kentucky's successful (and, sadly, about to fold up shop) kynect exchange, but wasn't aware of their connection to the other states. Arkansas in particular is interesting, since they don't have their own exchange yet (they were originally supposed to split off onto their own platform starting in 2017, but I suspect that's not gonna happen given the political environment).

In particular, she said Minnesota can learn from other states. Oregon is in the process of hiring a vendor, and is considering bids from hCentive and rivals GetInsured, Softheon and New Fields Technologies.

“Let’s keep this conversation going and see what happens in Oregon, what the price tag is for them,” O’Toole said.

Hello!! I knew that Oregon was thinking about giving their own exchange another shot, but it looks like they're progressing even further than they were a month ago.

Anyway, stay tuned...