August 18, 2014

Not National News: Mass. Obamacare Exchange Requires Everyone to Re-enroll, Again May Not Work in Time

Recent news about Obamacare hasn’t exactly been good, but the press has been pretty effective in keeping it quiet.

To name just a few items, enrollment is shrinking, because perhaps as many as 20 percent of enrollees aren’t keeping up with their premiums. Rising costs have moved insurers to beg for bailouts, which appear to be forthcoming. Just last week in Massachusetts, where the state-run health insurance got its start under Republican Governor Mitt Romney eight years ago, the state’s exchange announced that everyone currently enrolled in 2014 or who should have enrolled and didn’t is going to have to apply for 2015 coverage this fall. Oh, and the system it plans to employe may not even be working by mid-November.

The Boston Globe had a significant story on the situation on Friday (bolds are mine):

About 400,000 in Mass. must seek new health plan

Nearly 400,000 people in Massachusetts will need to reapply for health insurance before the end of the year, and many of them probably do not even know it.

They are people who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance and who instead sought insurance through the state. After the Massachusetts insurance website failed last year, most of them were enrolled in temporary coverage that ends Dec. 31, which is why they must select a new plan.

This is the newest challenge facing the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state agency that provides an online place to shop for insurance, as it struggles to emerge from the disastrous rollout of its website last year. Now that state and federal officials have said that Massachusetts has software that will work, Connector leaders want to get people to log on and choose a plan, starting Nov. 15.

… Maydad Cohen, a special adviser to Governor Deval Patrick, told the board that oversees the Connector Thursday that the state will request an additional $80 million in Medicaid funds to complete rebuilding of the website. That brings to $254 million the cost of the failed Connector project and its rebuilding, with all but $30 million paid by the federal government.

Of course, no one expects anyone in Washington to raise a fuss about the money, as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama are best buds.

Continuing to the next potential victimizer — er, I mean vendor:

Last week, the Connector announced it would remain a state-based exchange, using off-the-shelf software adapted by a Virginia technology company, hCentive. The state has abandoned backup preparations to join the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov.

(Special Adviser to Governor Patrick Maydad) Cohen expressed confidence that when consumers log on they will find a functioning website able to take them from log-on to health plan choice.

“We are much further along than we were last year at this time,” he said after the meeting.

But at least one person in the audience was skeptical.

(Michael) Astrue, long a critic of the Connector implementation, added, “The difficulty that the staff expressed about making changes makes it likely that, at best, we will only have a partially functional system on Nov. 15.”

My money would be on Astrue to be correct. That said, it’s interesting after the $1 billion or so spent on HealthCare.gov that a vendor is marketing an “off-the-shelf” solution. If it works, that would seem to indicate that the idea of customized development was ill-advised from the very start.

Despite the large numbers involved and the fact that the Bay State, because of Romneycare, should have been in a better than average position to get its act together from the very start, the Associated Press’s national site doesn’t have a related story, nor does the Politico.

Or perhaps the first word in the previous paragraph should have been “Because.” After all we can’t have bad Obamacare news polluting low-information voters’ minds.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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