Following Health Care Ruling, Vt. Officials Set To Take Next Step

06/29/12 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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State applies for $100 million federal health care grant to upgrade aging information technology systems

Because the state of Vermont has made so much progress meeting the goals of the Affordable Care Act, it's now eligible to apply for a new round of health care grants under the federal law.

To date, Vermont has received roughly $20 million to help design its consumer marketplace exchange. This is the place where all individuals and small businesses will be required to purchase their insurance policies beginning in 2014.

Robin Lunge is the director of Health Care Reform for the Shumlin Administration. She says the state has applied for another $100 million to help upgrade an aging network of information technology.

"One of the things that I've learned in learning more about building these operational systems is that IT is expensive and it's not just buying computers and software," said Lunge. "It's also making sure that you train your staff so that they can use the software, that you have appropriate project management, so that you are meeting deadlines and moving forward in an organized and efficient way. So while we roughly refer to it as IT it's a lot more than just computers and software."

And Lunge says it's critical that the new technology is compatible with the old systems.

"It's important to remember that we wouldn't want to just build a new system that can't talk to the old system because that's not going to work well for Vermonters."

Anya Rader-Wallack is the chairwoman of the Green Mountain Care Board - a group that oversees virtually every aspect of health care in Vermont.

She says the new grant money is needed to make certain that the health care exchange operates smoothly and efficiently when it's put into use in the fall of 2013. "Vermont like many, many states across the country have essentially 30 year old computer systems in place for doing things like enrollment and eligibility in our Medicaid programs," said Rader-Wallack. "So part of firing up these exchanges is facing the need to upgrade those systems and bring them into the modern era."

State officials say they're cautiously optimistic that this new grant application will be approved in the coming months.




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