Report: Massachusetts Will Scrap Broken Romneycare

Monday, 05 May 2014 11:04 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The pioneering Massachusetts health insurance exchange that served as the model for Obamacare is too broken to fix, reports said Monday.

Politico reported key parts of the Bay State's dysfunctional Romneycare will be ditched and the exchange merged with the federal enrollment site at HealthCare.gov.

To do so, the Boston Globe reported, officials will buy an off-the-shelf product used by other states, including Kentucky and Colorado, to enroll residents in health plans while preparing to join the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace if that product fails.

Virginia-based contractor hCentive would rush to build a viable state exchange in time for the next enrollment season, which begins Nov. 15, and at the same time, the state would start shifting the Massachusetts exchange, known as the Connector, to HealthCare.gov, Politico noted.

"I've said all along that no option on the table would be perfect, and the dual track certainly has its benefits and its challenges," Sarah Iselin, special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick, told the Globe.

"It does, however, solve for two realities: we need a reliable website to help people during the next open enrollment period, and we need to be in a position to achieve a fully integrated system in 2015."

Massachusetts is the second state to begin that transition to the federal insurance exchange.

Last month, Oregon opted to scrap its system and join the federal exchange.

Massachusetts has already spent $57 million on a system that never was able to enroll people with subsidies from 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, the reports said.

State officials traveled to Washington last week to discuss the future of their exchange with the Obama administration, Politico reported.

Critics of Obamacare characterized the Bay State's issues as a result of the "one-size-fits-all" nature of the federal healthcare law.

"It's a travesty," Ryan Williams, a Republican consultant who worked as an aide to Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and on his presidential campaigns, told Politico.

"What we've seen is a dismantling of a once-popular and effective system, to be replaced with a wildly ineffective and broken program that has brought great shame to Massachusetts."

"This will be a problem not only for Democrats in the Bay State but for Democrats across the country. If it can fail in Massachusetts, it can fail anywhere," Williams added.

Meanwhile, Forbes on Monday said a new report in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed programs like Obamacare and Romneycare save lives – but at a very high cost.

The study estimated that "for approximately every 830 adults who gained insurance [under Romneycare], there was one fewer death per year."

Assuming the per-person cost of covering 830 adults is roughly the per-person premium for employer-sponsored coverage in Massachusetts in 2010 – about $5,000 – calculations would suggest Romneycare spent $4 million or more per life saved, Forbes noted. But the real figure could be higher if it includes other costs incurred by that law.

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