Do Romneycare’s Health Connector Failures Signal ObamaCare Woes?

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
05/08/2014
       
Do Romneycare’s Health Connector Failures Signal ObamaCare Woes?

Massachusetts announced May 5 that it was abandoning its Health Connector website — the centerpiece of Romneycare that has been a model for ObamaCare nationally — after eight years of the landmark legislation in the Bay State.

Politico.com's Kyle Cheney reported on May 5 that “Massachusetts has already spent $57 million on a system that never was able to enroll people with subsidies start to finish, and its failure has forced the state to enroll more than 160,000 residents in temporary Medicaid coverage — at an estimated $10 million-a-month cost.” In the wake of such massive inefficiencies, it's perhaps not surprising that Massachusetts healthcare plan policyholders have long paid among the highest premiums in the nation — premium costs exceeded only by Alaska and the District of Columbia in 2012, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

Massachusetts appointed a new website administrator in February, Sarah Iselin, who has announced that the state is going toward a “dual track” of rebuilding its HealthConnectorMA.org website and making the state's policies compliant for purchase on the federal government's site. Iselin — chosen by Governor Deval Patrick to fix the website problem — had worked for the commissioner of insurance during the Romneycare rollout in 2006. She had also worked for the state's largest health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Boston's WBZ Television reporter Jon Keller noted in a March 23, 2014 interview with Iselin that he had received numerous complaints about the state Health Connector website. Keller said he received one complaint from a woman who “sent in her application for coverage months ago, still does not know if it has been received, can not get a straight answer from the connector despite repeated phone calls. What's your message to her, and through her to thousands of others in the same plight?”

Iselin acknowledged that she inherited a backlog of unprocessed applications totaling 72,000, and told the local CBS affiliate:

First of all, we need to do better. That is what we are very much focused upon right now, because people should not be having this experience. It's not what residents of the commonwealth deserve. And it does not reflect our commitment to access to health care for folks in this state. So I'm hoping you will give me her information so I can have someone reach out to her and ensure that she can get through the system and get coverage.

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