Colorado's Affordable Care Act approach


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Sherri Hammons, Colorado’s chief technology officer, is in a similar position to other state information technology executives these days, however, her state is taking a slightly different approach.

Hammons said one of her top priorities these days is making sure Colorado is prepared to fulfill its requirements under the Affordable Care Act, namely the Health Insurance Marketplace which needs to be stood up by October 1 and fully operational by the first of the calendar year.

Unlike most states that are creating their own system, Hammons told StateScoop that Colorado is going in an alternate direction: The state is working with Connect for Health, a non-profit state designated entity, that will run the exchange on behalf of that state.

“When it comes down to it, the [Governor’s Office of Information Technology]  doesn’t have anything to do with the running of the exchange,” Hammons said. “We’ll work together on integrating that system with the changes to Medicaid that are part of the Affordable Care Act, in bringing together something new with something that is old, but changing.”

The Medicaid upgrades will be a huge task as well, but one Hammons will tie into Colorado’s new citizen engagement platform called Peak. The platform will create a single portal for Colorado’s citizens to access state services in one location, instead of visiting a number of different agency pages.

Outlined last year in a white paper written by Hammons and Colorado Chief Information Officer Kristin Russell, Peak will roll out with the upgrades to Medicaid and then add different services as time goes on. One, in particular, Hammons would like to tackle is helping improve the service of the state’s department of motor vehicles and improving the wait times that citizens face when visiting their local office.

“In the past, governments have not always been focused on the citizen’s experience as there is no competition for their services, but we need to change that,” said Hammons, who spent her career in the private sector before joining Colorado in 2011. “Our citizens are our customers and we need to be constantly finding ways to positively engage with them.”

Another big project is building out the state’s mobile capabilities, not just for the state’s employees, but for the citizens as well. Hammons instituted a “Mobile First” policy for all new projects. The strategy designates that the state looks at mobile technologies first with all government services, but especially citizen facing services, and have that capability included before a system is up and running. The same goes to include mobile, where possible, on older systems.

“We want 100 percent of what we do to be mobile ready,” Hammons said. “We’re not there yet, but just want to put that in people’s mind when thinking about projects and programs, because so many of our citizens are connecting via smartphones.”

The state also has BYOD in place for its employees with a list of acceptable use policies in place for most of the state agencies. Some, like the department of corrections, are not using BYOD because they wanted more control over their environment, Hammons said.

As for the cloud, Hammons said the state has both a private cloud and a commercial cloud that it uses. The state runs most of its applications out of its own cloud, but then moves the ones that need 24-hour support, like that Medicaid project, to an external cloud.

Hammons also instituted a “Cloud First” policy, which she said she borrowed from her friend and former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra who instituted the policy for the federal government.

“The cloud is big for us,” Hammons said. “A lot of people are not sure how to use it, but we see a lot of opportunity in it.”

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Cloud Computing, Colorado, Health Exchanges, Health IT, Kristin Russell, Medicaid, Mobility, Open Source, Sherri Hammons, Software, States, Tech News, Vivek Kundra