Testing To Be Confidential, No New Comparison Tools

October 9, 2014 in News

On Monday, CMS notified insurers that all data and results of testing conducted ahead of the second open enrollment period must remain private, the Wall Street Journal reports.


Insurers were scheduled to begin testing the federal exchange website on Tuesday. The testing period this year is starting earlier and lasting longer than it did last year, according to the Journal.

Notice Details

According to CMS, the testing “involves access to proprietary issuer information and secure systems” that the agency wants insurers to treat confidentially. CMS in an email to insurers said that insurance officials “will not use, disclose, describe, post to a public form or in any way share test data with any person or entity, including but not limited to the media.”

Under the agreement, insurers are not supposed to share industry data. In addition, they are barred from revealing results of the tests that relate to the site’s performance and functionality. The information may only be shared if the recipients also agree to the privacy terms.

CMS did not require insurers to agree to confidentiality terms during similar testing ahead of last year’s launch (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 10/7). Will Not Have Network Information

Meanwhile, recently appointed CEO Kevin Counihan said the website once again will not include tools to allow consumers to view which providers and hospitals are included in individual plans’ networks, the New York Times‘ “The Upshot” reports.

According to “The Upshot,” the lack of such tools has resulted in many consumers unknowingly signing up for narrow network plans. While narrow plans offered under the Affordable Care Act can help lower costs for consumers, they also can lead to difficulty finding a provider covered by an individual’s insurance.

“The Upshot” reports that the government is focusing on the site’s core capabilities rather than adding new tools after a troubled launch last year (Sanger-Katz, “The Upshot,” New York Times, 10/7). Host Switch Delayed

In related news, the federal government has delayed plans to switch to a new hosting service, the Wall Street Journal reports.

CMS last year signed a contract to replace Verizon Communications with Hewlett-Packard as the website’s host. The agency originally intended to move the site onto an HP platform after the first open enrollment period ended in March. However, CMS decided to keep Verizon through the end of the second enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15 (Radnofsky/Armour, Wall Street Journal, 10/1).

CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright said the decision was “the best path forward to ensure a successful second open enrollment period.” He added, “It was made in order to improve the consumer experience and have sufficient time for testing” (Varadhan, Reuters, 10/1).

According to a federal contract document, CMS delayed the switch because it did not have enough time to test the HP platform. The delay raises concerns about whether the site will work better the second time around, according to the Journal.

However, CMS has taken steps to manage high traffic to the site, such as transferring about 75% of new consumers to a part of the site that is hosted by Amazon. According to the Journal, HP also will host a few parts of the site and serve as a system backup (Wall Street Journal, 10/1).

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