May 13 2014
Patrice J. Lee
$474 million dollars can buy a person a lot, but what doesn’t it buy? Functioning ObamaCare enrollment websites for four states. It also doesn’t buy a clue for members of Congress who are still naïve about the ability to fix the failed state sites.
Almost half a billion tax payer dollars have been wasted on creating enrollment websites for ObamaCare state exchanges in four states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. As we’ve reported previously, each of these states embraced ObamaCare wholeheartedly and set out to set up their own online “marketplaces.” And each has been plagued by snafus, errors, backlogs, delays, and malfunctions.
October 1, 2013 wasn’t just a day of heartburn for the President and out-going Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius because of the failure of Healthacre.gov. States across the country that erected their own enrollment websites also launched broken websites or had delay launches altogether.
Maryland, Oregon, Nevada, and Massachusetts joined by Hawaii haven’t been able to overcome their issues and are now grappling with scrapping their websites and shifting enrolment to the federal website or dumping hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into fixing these sites. Massachusetts is taking a hybrid approach of both.
Each of the states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland — embraced Obamacare, and each underperformed. All have come under scathing criticism and now face months of uncertainty as they rush to rebuild their systems or transition to the federal exchange.
The federal government is caught between writing still more exorbitant checks to give them a second chance at creating viable exchanges of their own or, for a lesser although not inexpensive sum, adding still more states to HealthCare.gov. The federal system is already serving 36 states, far more than originally anticipated.
The $474 million spent by these four states includes the cost that officials have publicly detailed to date. It climbs further if states like Minnesota and Hawaii, which have suffered similarly dysfunctional exchanges, are added.
Their totals are just a fraction of the $4.698 billion that the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation calculates the federal government has approved for states since 2011 to help them determine whether to create their own exchanges and to assist in doing so. Still, the amount of money that now appears wasted is prompting calls for far greater accountability.
As you can imagine, there’s plenty of finger-pointing by state and federal lawmakers. Government officials are blaming their contractors like CGI (which produced the healthacre.gov website) and Oracle. The contractors have defended themselves and maintain that the problems are fixable. No one wants to take responsibility for lost tax dollars and there’s anxiousness as we enter into the summer season. The next enrollment period opens later this year and that’s a short timeline for fixing these broken websites and even shorter for those wanting to start over from scratch.
The botched rollout of the federal ObamaCare website was an embarrassment for the Administration and now that it appears to be functioning better, they think the chapter is closed.
The story is far from complete. The fundamental problems with ObamaCare (whether the federal or state exchanges) is not the technology. Broken websites are only symptomatic of the underlining problems with ObamaCare.
The un-Affordable Car Act is an exercise in government overreach into private industry that has caused market distortions. Covering new medical products and services that weren’t covered before has driven up the costs and squeezed out other plans that patients liked. The rippling impacts have also hit the job market and national economy as companies cut worker hours to avoid the employer mandate, avoid hiring new workers, and postpone investments in their own growth.
ObamaCare continues to remain a well-intentioned, but misadvised, ill-planned, and ill-executed experiment in government overreach. As taxpayers, we deserve to know that our dollars are well spent or returned to us and not wasted on (predictable) failures.
Will anyone be held accountable for the half billion in lost tax dollars on these websites? I doubt it.