Obamacare Agency Changes Course, Releases Public Information

Jun 30, 2014

Some of the responses to our Freedom of Information request.
Credit Jeff Cohen / WNPR
"In 20 years, we have never had a redaction of our pricing information challenged."
Michael Harrington

One dollar and 22 cents. That's how much Access Health CT, the state's health insurance marketplace, pays its call center operator for each minute it spends on the phone helping someone navigate the Affordable Care Act.

It's also a number that Maximus, the call center operator, has tried to keep from public disclosure for months.

Last fall, WNPR asked for a copy of the state's contract with Maximus. What we got was a lot of words with no pricing information. In fact, anything that had to do with pricing, from phone calls to cabling, was blacked out.

We filed a complaint with the state's Freedom of Information Commission. At one of two hearings, Maximus's attorney, Michael Harrington, argued that the company's pricing information was a proprietary trade secret and was, therefore, exempt from disclosure.

"In 20 years, we have never had a redaction of our pricing information challenged," Harrington said. "If some one of our competitors learns of how we priced -- for example, what is our staff makeup; what is the technology we are using; what are the startup costs -- then they have an advantage that they have not earned."

From the beginning, Access Health CT agreed with Maximus and defended the company's right to keep that information hidden. Now the agency has changed its mind, and provided the complete, unredacted contract and its amendment.

Kevin Counihan, who runs Access Health CT, said, "The information that was raised recently, through the hearings, has disclosed new information that caused us to react in a different way. We want to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field, [and] that all the states are treating this type of information similarly. As a result of that, as I said, we decided to make a different choice. We're very comfortable with it. We think it's the right thing to do." 

Now the big reveal: here's the contract, and here's the amendment.