Metro

Health Connector’s payment system down near deadline

The online payment system for people buying health insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector was out of service from about 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, the last day to pay for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

Dell, the subcontractor handling billing for the Connector, took the system down overnight for a weekly update, with plans to restore it early Sunday, according to Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts. But when the system came back up, it wasn’t working properly, and Dell did not get it working until early afternoon.

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“We have expressed our displeasure to Dell about its unilateral decision to proceed with an update the same day as a payment deadline for coverage,” Lefferts said in an e-mail to the Boston Globe.

The payment system is run by Dell and is separate from the Connector website that was rebuilt and launched Nov. 15.

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“We found out about 9 o’clock that it wasn’t working,” Lefferts said in a phone interview, referring to the Dell system. “We started getting calls.”

Although the Connector did not ask Dell to forgo the weekly update, “everyone knew it was the deadline,” Lefferts said.

But it appears the outage did not have a big effect on enrollments, he said. About 780 people paid Saturday, and by Sunday evening, 720 more had done so, Lefferts said.

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Last Tuesday was the deadline to select a plan through the Connector, established to serve people who do not get health insurance through an employer. But the Connector extended the first deadline for paying the first month’s premium until midnight Sunday. Payments can be made online or through the mail. Consumers who miss the deadline will not be able to get coverage until Feb. 1.

Of the 74,203 people who selected plans by the Tuesday deadline, 51,888 paid their first month’s premium by Friday.

But just because someone selected plan, it does not mean that the consumer necessarily was facing a deadline for getting insurance. Some people’s plans don’t expire until the end of January and, thus, officials said they were not expecting all 74,203 to pay premiums by Sunday.

Open enrollment continues until Feb. 15.

Felice J. Freyer can be reached at felice.freyer@globe.com.
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