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Officials say all systems go on revamped health exchange

With just under a month to go before open enrollment on the state’s revamped health exchange, officials say they’re on schedule and prepared — even eager — for the launch.

“We’re really excited,” said Isabel FitzGerald, secretary of the state’s Department of Information Technology, during a Tuesday teleconference with the health exchange board. “We’re testing and re-testing very complex scenarios at this point. … We’re in good shape; we’ve met our milestones.”

“Complex scenarios” refer to unusual consumer issues that might arise that would require the health exchange website to perform complex calculations. FitzGerald said an example would be a scenario in which the primary beneficiary dies, and the remaining family members need to restructure their health insurance coverage.

The IT team has already finished testing the website’s performance in common enrollment situations; staff are now working to test the complex scenarios, FitzGerald said.

The board of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (the entity that manages the Maryland Health Connection website) seemed pleased with FitzGerald’s presentation. Several voiced their appreciation for the work she’s done over the past several months to step in and overhaul the state’s original, malfunctioning website.

“I think the board has been just so incredibly impressed with your leadership in this effort,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, chair of the board and secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you — wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” said another board member during the teleconference who did not immediately identify himself.

But the real test for FitzGerald, and the new enrollment system created under her direction, is still a few weeks away. The public will be able to access the new system for the first time on Nov. 9, when the website opens for people to browse coverage options.

They won’t actually be able to enroll until several days later. A limited number of people will be able to sign up for coverage on Nov. 15 if they attend an enrollment fair hosted by the exchange.

Over the next couple of days, the website will gradually open up to more groups of people, such as insurance brokers, who can help their clients enroll. The website will not go fully live until Nov. 19 — that’s when Marylanders will be able to actually enroll on their own.

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.