The federal Healthcare.gov website, serving 36 states that chose not to build their own sites, has been - to quote its boss, Kathleen Sebelius - a "debacle." Its estimated cost to taxpayers stands at $394 million so far and will likely rise as the "tech surge" pours millions of additional taxpayer dollars into trying to fix the site. But federal taxpayers are on the hook for a sum more than 10 times greater - $4.3 billion - for state exchange websites. And some of them are even more spectacular failures than the federal site.
The final cost to taxpayers of the federal site may end up well short of the $910.1 million federal taxpayers have already been forced to send to just one state, California. Its troubled CoveredCA.com reportedly has a dodgy provider directory, delays for agent and provider certification, and its own variety of technical glitches.
Independent health broker Alison Gordon said: "The stats released are bogus... When they say they got 36,000 calls in one week, it's because the website isn't up and working properly."
The flawed provider directory is a big deal, because most California plans are attempting to contain costs by offering only a very narrow network of hospitals and doctors. And California is sitting on completed applications rather than send them on to carriers, because they doubt the accuracy of their own data. For this, federal taxpayers ponied up over $900 million dollars.
Other states have wasted obscene amounts of money on websites that function poorly or not at all.
Oregon's website - which seems to be a black hole for the $303 million of federal tax dollars it received, but does have a bunch of quirky, hipster-inspired advertisements - is now so bad Governor John Kitzhaber is saying: "Until that aspect of the website is working, they will not be able to enroll online." The "aspect" of being able to enroll people is kind of the whole game. Kitzhaber is urging Oregonians to apply with paper forms.
Colorado is also in bad shape. "It's painful. It's odious. It's embarrassing to have to go through all these questions that are not necessary if they're going to get kicked out anyway," said Nathan Wilkes, a board member of the Colorado exchange. After spending $178.9 million of federal taxpayer money, Colorado is now planning to replace its deeply troubled website with a brand new one by next October.
Delaware has 890,000 people and an estimated 95,700 uninsured - and its failed website has enrolled four people. But at least that pitiful failure "only" cost federal taxpayers $12.9 million.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.