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Consumer Alert

Mass. health website disrupted by federal chaos

Q. There has been a lot of publicity about the federal health insurance exchange not working but almost nothing said about the Massachusetts Health Connector. I have had a policy through the Connector since 2011. It worked great. Now, I have received notice that I have to sign up again. My old log-in no longer works. Setting up a new one doesn’t work properly. Going to the call center is torture. No one answers, and the same message on hold plays over and over again, telling people to go online while the online site tells people to call the help line. Worst of all, it looks like my policy is discontinued. Calling my insurer, I’m told it was a Health Connector decision and they can do nothing about it. Why is a process that worked so well before now completely broken?

A. There’s no doubt the health insurance exchanges are messed up, and the previously functional one in Massachusetts has tanked as it tries to adapt to new federal requirements. The folks at the Connector seem eager to please and are helping on your case.

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“This is a very large and very complex system, and anytime you are creating something of this scope bugs are expected,” Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts said. “We have had issues with the website and we are frustrated when those issues impact user experience. We are constantly monitoring the site and when specific issues are found, we work on finding a solution and making a fix.”

The system is taken down a few times a week late at night — so it will not be working at all when you try then. It’s pretty clear that federally mandated changes have complicated the situation. For example, the new federal law means that you can get dental insurance through the Connector. But you won’t find the details online. You will have to call, Lefferts said.

It’s unfortunate that something as beneficial as ensuring that everyone can get health coverage has taken a big step back before being able to step forward. Lefferts said he expects things to improve. “We anticipate new functionality will be added in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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