ST THOMAS, USVI -- The US Virgin Islands' Health Reform Implementation Task Force recently met with two vendors who will gather information to assist the deJongh/Francis Administration in determining whether a health insurance exchange is the best option for the Territory. The vendors, New Wave Telecomm and Value Advisory Group, were selected through the Request for Proposal process in 2011-2012.
New Wave Telecomm, an established provider with extensive experience in healthcare data collection and electronic health records, has been contracted to conduct an analysis of the Territory’s existing infrastructure for health care related information technology. In addition to assessing the Virgin Islands’ system readiness, New Wave will also identify gaps that could impede compliance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act for health information technology systems. Their efforts will include analyzing existing systems at the Departments of Health, Finance and Human Services that are used to facilitate intake, service delivery and financial reporting.
New Wave will use interviews with agency staff and systems mapping to identify potential technical solutions based on current system capabilities, as well as improvements that are scheduled to be in place by early 2014. This information will be used to provide the Task Force with the cost projections, benefits and risks of the options that are available towards implementing a health insurance exchange versus simply expanding the Territory’s current Medicaid program.
The Value Advisory Group has been retained to assess the needs of the local population relative to health insurance, or a private insurance market analysis. Over the next few months, the vendor will randomly sample approximately 2,100 households through a telephone survey, and conduct focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders, to include insurance companies, small business owners and medical providers as part of a marketplace analysis. The vendor will also meet with current enrolees of the Medicaid Program to ascertain their first-hand experience with health insurance offered via this mechanism. This information will be combined with actuarial analysis and qualitative assessments to formulate an objective picture of the feasibility of implementing a health insurance exchange. This data is also expected to be useful to our on-going efforts to establish a Joint Eligibility System for residents receiving assistance (SNAP, MAP, and TANF) through the Departments of Health and Human Services. By creating one portal for eligibility determination and the subsequent application, the Territory hopes to reduce incidences of fraud and provide more effective service to the user public.
The private market analysis will also evaluate the impact of the HOVENSA closing on the insured population and build on the 2009 health insurance survey conducted by the Bureau of Economic Research.
Both projects will be underway at the same time, thereby maximizing on the availability of local resources to support the data gathering effort.
"Although both projects will be running concurrently on very aggressive timelines, we are confident in the vendors’ ability to meet all deadlines affecting the Territory as it relates to compliance with the Affordable Care Act," said Taetia Phillips-Dorsett, health reform coordinator.
The findings of New Wave TeleComm and Value Advisory Group will position the Territory to determine the feasibility of implementing a health insurance exchange. The task force expects to receive the conclusions of the IT analysis by mid-December and the private insurance market analysis in January 2013.
All task force members in attendance agreed that the success and completion of both projects within the suggested accelerated timeframes will depend on buy-in of agency staff, the participation of the community at large and the continued willingness and diligence of the deJongh/Francis Administration to thoroughly explore all feasible options available to the territories under the Affordable Care Act. The Health Reform Implementation Task Force will continue to receive monthly reports from each vendor to chart the progress on both important projects.