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May 6 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

Patrice J. Lee

The state that served as a test-case for the mandated healthcare and a model for ObamaCare will abandon its broken enrollment website and force tens of thousands of people to enroll in temporary insurance plans through Medicaid.

Last week, we reported that Oregon dropped its entire exchange and transitioned to the federal exchange following struggles with its broken website that failed to enroll many Oregonians. Maryland also pulled the plug on its website and adopted a system used by Connecticut –all at the expense of wasted taxpayer dollars.

Now Massachusetts officials are handing the reigns of the state enrollment system to the federal government. They are pursuing what they call a "dual-track strategy" for their insurance marketplace by combining new, off-the-shelf enrollment software with a long-term plan to shift the system into HealthCare.gov (unless the software fix works).

This move comes eight months into open enrollment, after launching what Forbes calls “the worst performing exchange in the country”, spending almost $180 million of taxpayer dollars, and announcing that the original contractor would be fired—even though it is still working on the project.

The Hill reports:

Massachusetts is preparing to abandon its troubled ObamaCare website, a system so problematic that the state was forced to enroll tens of thousands of people in temporary insurance plans through Medicaid.

"I’ve said all along that no option on the table would be perfect, and the dual track certainly has its benefits and its challenges," said Sarah Iselin, special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick (D), in a statement Monday.

"It does, however, solve for two realities: we need a reliable website to help people during the next open enrollment period, and we need to be in a position to achieve a fully integrated system in 2015."

The system's problems are particularly notable since the 2006 Massachusetts healthcare overhaul inspired the Affordable Care Act and its marketplaces.

While the state's initial exchange was successful, the transition to complying with federal rules proved troublesome last year.

Thousands of consumers were frustrated by the new enrollment website, leading Massachusetts to recommend the use of paper applications and enroll people in temporary health plans through Medicaid.

It’s embarrassing but more important, this is a costly experiment that has delivered to Americans frustration and waste.

Originally, Massachusetts officials promised to deliver the “Rolls Royce” of any healthcare exchange. Now they’re just hoping for a whoopty that can pull out of the driveway. They learned the hard way that starting with bad parts and an ill-suited builder won’t deliver good results.

Guess who Massachusetts contracted with to build its state exchange? CGI Group, the very same company that botched the federal ObamaCare website healthcare.gov.

Implementing ObamaCare exchanges (both federal and state) required Herculean efforts. Many states have fallen short because government officials were unprepared for the breathtaking complexity of the task. But of all of the states that should have succeeded, Massachusetts should’ve been the champion. It had a head start.

Massachusetts officials hope an off-the-shelf solution will work, but I’m far less optimistic. If it fails and they turn the site over to the feds, will that be any better? Ask those who’ve dealt with healthcare.gov.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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