"It won't be perfect tomorrow, but it will be functioning and perfect in the foreseeable future," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The governor faced reporters to defend Vermont Health Connect's performance. He says since the Oct. 1 launch website speed has improved and connection to the federal hub is now happening, before it was only connecting 70 percent of the time. And error messages went from 800 in one day down to zero. So far, 1,400 people have signed up out of an expected 100,000.
"This is a good cause. We are doing this for the right reasons. We've had technology challenges, we get that. Our technology challenges are not as great as the federal hub; we are making improvements," Shumlin said.
Vermont's online exchange is mandated under Obamacare to provide coverage to uninsured and businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Vermont is spending $172 million on the effort. Glitches mean customers still cannot actually pay for coverage. And the governor now says the state probably won't even make its own delayed goal to accept payments by Nov. 1.
"So the bottom line is I can't look you in the eye truthfully and say hey, we have this figured out on a tight schedule to the moment as we could with a road project," Shumlin said.
And that is why Vermont Republicans called on the governor this week to delay requiring Vermonters to buy through the exchange until it works-- an idea he rejected.
Gov. Peter Shumlin: My backup plan is to continue doing exactly what I am doing which is to ensure I'm doing everything I can, working with the vendors to get this website right and I'm making progress every day.
Reporter Kristin Carlson: So, there is no backup plan?
Gov. Shumlin: Uh, let me clear about contingencies; we all know that governors have to make sure things work and that's what I'm doing.
"My reaction is we are dependent on a whole lot of hope from the governor," said Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom.
Johnston worries Vermonters could wind up without coverage Jan. 1, since, by law, that's when many plans will go away.
"No, it's not ready. It's not close to being ready and only today admitting the things that we said were wrong three weeks ago," Johnston said.
Kristin Carlson: On Jan. 1 how confident are you that Vermont Health Connect will be up and running for Vermonters?
Gov. Shumlin: I'm confident that not only will Vermont Health Connect be up and running Jan. 1, but doing its job.
Kristin Carlson: 100 percent working?
Gov. Shumlin: Well, you know there is no website that works 100 percent. When you have a new website and launch of this kind you can often have glitches and problems that you work on. A website like this is an ongoing effort.
Kristin Carlson: So, there still will be glitches Jan. 1?
Gov. Shumlin: If I could answer that question I wouldn't be governor, I would be God.
CGI is building Vermont's website. It's the same company building the federal exchange. Vermont's contract with CGI has doubled in cost to about $84 million. Because the company has missed key performance goals spelled out in the contract, the state is eligible to seek $5 million in fines. Thursday, the governor said that's not his priority; he's focused on fixing the website problems, but that he might seek money later for what he calls "disappointing results."
Friday, April 18 2014 10:13 PM EDT2014-04-19 02:13:23 GMT
A mother and her five-old child were taken to Fletcher Allen Friday night after being hit by a car in Winooski. Police say the accident happened around 8-30 at the intersection of West Spring and NorthMore >>
A mother and her five-old child were taken to Fletcher Allen Friday night after being hit by a car in Winooski.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 5:16 PM EDT2014-04-18 21:16:40 GMT
Vt. State Police say a small plane has crashed on Interstate 89 north in Highgate. A state airport official confirms that a single-engine aerobatic plane was in the vicinity of the Franklin County StateMore >>
The pilot of a small plane parachuted to safety before his aircraft crashed on Interstate 89 north in Highgate Friday. More >>