Mark Larson

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Larson to leave DVHA in March

MONTPELIER – Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson is stepping down from his post in March and will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Lori Collins on an interim basis, the Shumlin administration announced Tuesday. Larson has had a rocky tenure as commissioner. It included overseeing the botched rollout of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace that is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Larson, a former state representative from Burlington and chairman of the House Health Care Committee, was eventually stripped of his oversight of the exchange in September of last year by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The site was taken offline by the state after the federal government raised concerns over its security and threatened to disconnect the state from a federal data hub. Continue Reading →

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State warned in June that exchange faced disconnection

MONTPELIER — State officials knew in early June that the state’s online health insurance marketplace faced possible disconnection from the federal data hub because of ongoing security shortcomings, according to documents obtained through a public records request. Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson received a letter, dated June 10, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explaining that Vermont Health Connect could be disconnected from the federal data hub by Sept. 8 if security shortcomings were not resolved. State officials eventually took the exchange site offline on the evening of Sept. 15, but did so voluntarily, according to Lawrence Miller, a special advisor to Gov. Peter Shumlin and the state’s chief of health care reform. Continue Reading →

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Optum report critical of state, CGI

Vermont’s top health care reform officials are planning a roundtable meeting with reporters this morning to discuss a report by Optum that is critical of both the state and CGI. Included in the report:
Optum has concluded, based review of the VHC’s Program Management documentation and interviews with both SOV and contractor staff, that the project’s Program Management structure and processes contributed to SOV’s lack of project ownership and CGI’s lack of accountability. Additionally, project
management processes within the program, do not align with industry best practices and are insufficient or ineffective. As a result CGI has not met its commitments in the contract and the project has not met the expectations of the SOV. The project team’s ability to deliver the remaining contractual requirements is a ‘High’ risk, and as such, immediate corrective action is required. Continue Reading →

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Another exchange deadline to be missed

MONTPELIER — Change of circumstance functionality expected to go live this weekend on Vermont Health Connect will not be deployed as testing continues, according to Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson. The state’s vendor, CGI, was supposed to have the change of circumstance function live on the health insurance exchange website by May 21 based on an amendment to the original contract. But the state reached an agreement on a revised work plan to extend the deadline to June 8. Now there is a new delay. “We’re making very good progress on the development of the functionality and we’re close with automated change of circumstance functionality, but have made the decision that it’s not ready to go this weekend into the live environment,” Larson said Friday. Continue Reading →

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Another exchange deadline missed, but state extends timeframe

MONTPELIER — A function missing from Vermont’s online health insurance marketplace will not be added by today’s deadline, but state officials say they are giving the contractor additional time to complete the project before they look to impose penalties. Under an amended contract signed in early April, tech giant CGI was required to deliver “change of circumstance” functionality by today. The upgrade would allow thousands of Vermonters to edit their personal information online if mistakes are made during registration, or if they experience a life-changing event such as marriage. But progress remains slow, and the function remains in testing, according to Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. “We will not have the change of circumstances functionality tomorrow,” Larson said Tuesday. Continue Reading →

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State, CGI sign amended contract with new timeline and penalties

MONTPELIER — State officials and the contractor building Vermont Health Connect have signed off on a new agreement that sets a new schedule for launching missing functions and includes additional financial penalties for missed deadlines. The amended contract with tech giant CGI was signed Tuesday by Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson and Gregg Mossburg, a senior vice president with the firm. Under the amended contract, CGI must deliver “change of circumstance” functionality by May 21. By July 2, small business functionality must be operational. Failure to deliver by those dates will result in new financial penalties on top of the $5 million in “liquidated damages” the state has already claimed for CGI’s incomplete work. Continue Reading →

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Small biz direct enrollment to last through 2015 open enrollment

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration told lawmakers Tuesday that small businesses will have the option to continue directly enrolling in health care insurance plans during the next open enrollment period slated for this fall. Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge delivered the update to the Senate Finance Committee early Tuesday afternoon. Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, delivered the same message later to the House Health Care Committee. “The good news that I have is that the feds have approved the ability for us to continue with direct enrollment moving forward through the 2015 open enrollment period for 2016 plans and our intention is to allow this as an additional option,” Lunge said. Direct enrollment with the state’s two insurance carriers was a contingency plan offered by Gov. Peter Shumlin when the state’s federally mandated online insurance marketplace, Vermont Health Connect, failed to function properly at launch last October. Continue Reading →

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Online payments go live on state exchange

MONTPELIER — The state’s online health insurance marketplace is now accepting payment online for premiums, the Shumlin administration announced Monday. Individual Vermonters enrolling in insurance plans on Vermont Health Connect, the online marketplace mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, can now pay for monthly premiums online, according to the Department of Vermont Health Access. The site underwent an upgrade over the weekend, officials said. Small businesses will continue to enroll directly through the state’s two insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health Care. The payment system will now allow Vermonters to pay premiums with a debit card, credit card or direct deposit from a bank account in addition to paper checks. Continue Reading →

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GOP leaders seek federal investigation into exchange

MONTPELIER — Republican leaders in the Legislature are seeking a federal investigation into Vermont Health Connect based on an anonymous tip that a state contractor duped state officials last year. House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton and Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning of Caledonia County sent a letter Wednesday to Tristram Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, requesting the investigation. The request is based on “whistleblower allegations alleging a fraudulent software demonstration on July 26, 2013 by CGI Technologies & Solutions.”

Newsweek published an article earlier this month in which an anonymous source said a demonstration by CGI last July designed to show connectivity with the state’s online insurance marketplace with a federal data hub was faked. The exchange site, for which CGI has an $84 million contract to build, is still not fully functional, the GOP leaders wrote in their letter. “We believe the unexplained and extensive delay, coupled with evidence suggesting the company in charge of designing the system may have duped Vermont officials into incorrectly thinking that the software system was working and on schedule, constitutes sufficient legal and factual predicate to begin a federal investigation,” they wrote. Continue Reading →

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DVHA reveals second privacy breach

MONTPELIER — A state official revealed a second privacy breach Tuesday involving users on the state’s online health exchange but said the minor incident was caused by human error and did not involve a technology breakdown. Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, told the Health Care Oversight Committee Tuesday of the “privacy incident,” but said there was no “security breach.” Rather, a Vermont Health Connect representative made a human error, he said. “This incident was isolated to two unique Vermont Health Connect users. It was a result of manual human customer service error and there was not a risk to other Vermont Health Connect users,” Larson said. “The issue has been investigated by Vermont Health Connect. Continue Reading →

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