New England News
12:14 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Conn. Showcasing ACA Success; Unveils Health Exchange Mobile App

The Access Health CT mobile application
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

Connecticut is unveiling mobile apps that will give access to the state health insurance exchange on smartphones and tablets.

Connecticut has become a poster child for the success of the Affordable Care Act, at least on the technological side. For instance, Maryland has reached an agreement to use Connecticut’s website software developed by Deloitte to fix its failed exchange. Maryland won’t pay Connecticut a dime, but it will pay the software company. During the open enrollment period from October to March, staff at Access Health CT tracked how people were getting health insurance through its website via desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Kevin Counihan is CEO of Access Health CT.

“After 7 o’clock at night it was typical that roughly 25 percent of our enrollment came through a combination of smartphones and tablets,” Counihan said. “How folks were able to get on through a smartphone is beyond me, but they did it. Clearly we feel the need to make that easier and simpler for people.”

To make mobile access easier, Amtec Systems Corporation created iPhone and Android applications in conjunction with the state. Customers cannot use the applications to fully enroll in a plan just yet, but they can anonymously determine program eligibility, shop insurance carriers and download and upload documents. Access Health CT CIO Jim Wadleigh says the application uses technology people have become comfortable with.

“Take a picture of a document, similar to if you were to take a picture of a check to deposit into your bank account,” Wadleigh said. “Allowing our customers from the ease of sitting at home in their kitchen to be able to do this quickly and easily.”

Of the 208,000 people who enrolled through the state’s exchange, 25 percent are aged 18 to 34, according to Counihan. This initiative targets that age group, the so-called healthy young invincibles the federal government is counting on to sign up for plans and drive down costs for others. Apps will be available on Ipads and Android tablets in mid-June. A Spanish version of the application is also in the works. Unlike the website, Connecticut hopes to market and make money from the application, developed using money from health insurance carriers, according to Wadleigh.

“The very main reason that we are using our carrier assessment dollars is so that we can use this as a potential revenue generating application and sell to other states,” said Wadleigh.

The state will use customer feedback to decide whether to develop an application that allows people to enroll in plans. Without advertising online or in the exchange storefronts, the application has been downloaded 120 times and more than 400 documents have been uploaded over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, under a $120 million plan, Massachusetts will buy an off-the-shelf software program and use the federal website to allow people to enroll, while it works to negotiate out of its $69 million contract with its software developer. The commonwealth brought on Blue Cross Blue Shield executive Sarah Iselin for four months to fix the problems. Counihan, who was the chief marketing officer of Massachusetts’ previous health exchange from 2006 to 2011, before the ACA rollout, says Connecticut has succeeded because it has hired the right people, mostly from the private sector.

“The fundamental key to success in building any of these exchanges is frankly no different than it is with any other business enterprise,” Counihan said. “That is that is begins with people. When you hire the right staff at the senior level, they tend to hire the right staff at the director level, who hires the right staff at the manager level and it cascades down.”

The mobile apps can be downloaded for free