Building a website for Washington state citizens to shop for and purchase health insurance, then connecting that site to the state’s eligibility databases, and finally tying everything to a federal data hub is a daunting challenge even with ample time for planning,” reports Patrick Marshall for the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-policy research and communication organization.
The Affordable Care Act set an Oct. 1 deadline in which to implement each state’s new health-insurance exchange. Ours is called the Washington Healthplanfinder <http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org>. Has Washington state, with its provincial prowess for technological expertise, made it to the deadline on time and on track ?
“When you think about the flight path for having something of this size and impact completed in the time frame that is being asked, it’s a pretty heavy lift,” says Michael Marchand, director of communications at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “We feel fortunate that we got out ahead of this earlier than some other states.”
Meeting the deadline was not without its twists and turns. Richard Onizuka, CEO of the benefit exchange and an assistant director for health policy for the Washington State Health Care Authority, was there from the beginning. Onizuka predicted “the major hurdle is the amount of time that we’re trying to squeeze to get everything done.”
Ultimately, the team decided to follow a set strategy. “The eligibility system has all sorts of pieces to it — food stamps, housing, medical, other things like that,” explains Onizuka. “The process was to pull the medical piece out of that system, build a new rules engine, then put the rest back together.”
The key challenge in that process is getting the state medical eligibility data to interface with other databases, especially the federal hub.
While formatting data so that it interacts with other databases can be time-consuming, it’s the challenge of putting it all together without being able to really test the system.
While the work isn’t finished yet the state is confident everything will be ready to go on Oct. 1.
The Washington-state Health Plan Finder Website features an Education Center with educational videos and FAQs. Recommended plans for Individuals feature “Gold,” the “Best Coverage,” “Silver, for “Good Coverage” — the “Standard” benefit, and “Bronze ‘Value Coverage f0r ’Just in Case.’” Businesses can call a dedicated business line at (206) 569-8216 for questions.
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Larry Sivitz is founder, publisher and managing editor of Seattle24x7, the founder of SearchWrite Search Marketing, an SEO, PPC and Social Media Thought Leader, and an SPJ award winner for Seattle magazine.