You’d think it would be difficult to find two states more different than Massachusetts and Hawaii. Despite being one of the oldest and one of the newest states, and being 5,000 miles apart, they do share some similarities. For example, both got snow this year. OK, Boston’s accumulation was about nine feet and fell at sea level, while Hawaii got a few inches at elevations in excess of 11,000 feet, but it was snow nonetheless.
Here’s another way they are similar: They both named their state-run exchanges “Connector.” One more similarity: Both connectors have become disconnected.
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Massachusetts’ Connector is so messed up that the government recently received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney and is facing allegations of outright fraud. Massachusetts passed health care reform (aka “Romney Care”) in 2006. After PPACA passed, many suggested that there was much to be learned from the state’s efforts. The original Massachusetts Connector achieved the stated goal of reducing the number of uninsured in the state. It also begat the expected financial problems, increased waiting times for physician visits and the like. All were learning opportunities.
Of course, Washington’s unofficial motto is, “If it ain’t broke, fix it ‘til it is,” so they created enough regulatory nonsense to cause the Massachusetts Connector to have to be remade to meet the terms of PPACA. Then the wheels came off. The original 2013 rewrite was so messed up that it had to be re-rebuilt. In the interim, with no other options, the state moved enrollees into Medicaid until they could get their new site open and sort everything out.
In any other enterprise, heads would have rolled, but in government, where bureaucrats attempt to commit commerce, things went from bad to worse. A recent report by the Pioneer Institute found gross mismanagement of the website during the term of former governor Deval Patrick. Josh Archambault, author of the study, calls it a “level of complete incompetence and mismanagement.”
The Commonwealth hired CGI to build the site, but failed to hold them accountable for errors and deadlines that often slipped repeatedly. The report also reveals that the state didn’t provide CGI with the necessary resources and that leadership on the project was lacking at best. Worse, and this may be the subject of the subpoena, the report indicates that state officials lied about the progress of the site to the Connector Board as well as to Medicaid officials overseeing the initiative.
While rumors of a potential federal lawsuit linger, the Connector is still a mess. Newly appointed member of the Connector Board Mark Gaunya, an insurance advisor and agency owner from Methuen, Mass. said, “It is ugly, and I’m glad it’s out on the table so we can reconcile the past, hold people accountable, and press forward with fixing this disaster. I’m confident the [Governor] Baker administration, Connector board and staff will fix it.”
At the same time, after taxpayers spent more than $200 million, Hawaii’s Health Connector is also on the rocks. It has become financially unstable due to — you guessed it — ongoing IT issues. Similar to Massachusetts, Hawaii’s site never actually worked properly when it was launched in October 2013. Despite the state spending $74 million with contractor CGI (sensing a pattern here?) to build and run it. Three executive directors have come and gone in two years and with just over 8,500 enrolls in the first year, it ranked as the most costly exchange in the nation at $23,899 per person. You can buy A LOT of health insurance for 20 grand.
Other states have joined the mix. Despite the feds spending more than $4.5 billion on state-run exchanges, Oregon, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Nevada have also shut down their operations. With all of the initial crowing about how wonderful this scheme was going to be, it now appears that Massachusetts and Hawaii weren’t the only ones getting a giant snow job.
See also: When fixing doc doesn’t fix anything