More Fail: Massachusetts Scraps its State Exchange

Posted: May 05, 2014 7:30 PM

It seems as though Massachusetts has gone the way of Oregon -- that is, shelled out large amounts of taxpayer dollars building a state exchange that never worked properly and never will. Nice work, guys. The dream of delivering affordable health insurance to consumers as promised, via an easy-to-use website, is untenable in at least two states now. In truth, this sort of job-dropping incompetence and wastefulness is exceedingly difficult to comprehend. The Boston Globe has the details:

Massachusetts plans to completely scrap the state’s dysfunctional online health insurance website, deciding that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to fix the overwhelming number of flaws.

Instead, officials will buy an off-the-shelf product used by several other states to enroll residents in health plans, while simultaneously preparing to join the federal insurance marketplace if that product fails.

The state’s insurance system needs to be ready by Nov. 15 for consumers to enroll in new health plans for 2015. If adoption of the new software, called hCentive, takes longer than expected, the state can connect to the federal marketplace for up to one year.

Bureaucrats in Massachusetts have had years to get its state exchange up and running. They failed. Nor, of course, did they “botch” the roll-out either; it seems very clear to me that in states like Massachusetts and Oregon (as well as at the federal level) such “exchanges” were never ready to go live, let alone be navigated by consumers, at the time they did. Amazingly, too, seven months after the initial launch, Massachusetts has just finally realized they’ve been needlessly throwing money into a failed venture.

What, pray tell, took them so long to realize their website was never going to work?

The state’s website is supposed to tell consumers whether they qualify for a subsidized plan, calculate the cost of coverage, and enable them to compare plans and enroll. It has not worked properly since it was launched in October, leading the state to encourage people to fill out paper applications instead. The flaws have frustrated thousands of consumers, and forced the state to enroll tens of thousands of residents in temporary insurance plans through the state Medicaid program.

Wow. Paper applications in the digital age. I'm sure that won't be an issue for consumers who went that route down the line...