A health insurance technology strategist says federal exchange website managers should start over with HealthCare.gov.

John Sarich, a vice president at VUE Software, says HealthCare.gov managers should try to borrow ideas from states with successful health insurance enrollment sites.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to cope with unrealistically short development timelines imposed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by skimping on needs analysis and testing, and that strategy failed, Sarich said.

“A lot of the assumptions they made were wrong,” Sarich said.

He cited the HHS decision to make consumers go through a complicated process to set up accounts before letting them see plan information as an obvious flaw.

“The whole architecture is pretty poor,” he said, adding that HealthCare.gov looks less like a beta test version of the final enrollment site than a rough demo.

Back in May, Sarich said HealthCare.gov developers and the state-based exchange enrollment websites should have been ready for testing months ahead of the launch date.

Now, it looks as if the HealthCare.gov site went through little or no testing, Sarich said.

For Sarich, one sign of how far behind the HealthCare.gov team has been surfaced a couple of months ago: The HealthCare.gov team told VUE it was not yet ready to talk about the agent compensation component, something company officials have wanted to help develop.

Sarich remembers thinking, “You’re going to turn this on, and you don’t know how you’re going to handle agents?”

Sarich gave Kentucky as an example of a state exchange be working reasonably well.

But even the Kentucky exchange has processed only about 16,000 applications so far, which isn’t that many, and analysts would have to look at that system closely to see which Kentucky site components could work at the HealthCare.gov level, Sarich said. 

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