Two More States Struggle With Disastrous Obamacare Rollouts

Image: Two More States Struggle With Disastrous Obamacare Rollouts Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber discusses problems with the website for Cover Oregon, the state's health insurance exchange.

Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013 03:02 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Oregon and Massachusetts are joining the ranks of states with dismal prospects for enrollment in the Obamacare health insurance exchanges.

More than a month after Cover Oregon's online enrollment was expected to begin, the system still doesn't work and not one person has signed up, reports The Associated Press.

While Oregon officials aimed to build a first-class exchange, promising to offer a "one-stop shop" for health insurance, they took on too much and ignored initial warning signs, The AP reported.

"We stuck to the vision, and we're experiencing now the bumps that go along with having a grand vision that doesn't work out exactly the way you hope it will," Amy Fauver, chief communications officer for Cover Oregon, told The AP.

"We're confident that we will get the system up and running here in in the near future," she said.

More than $300 million has reportedly been spent on the exchanges already, but the Oregon system, unlike the exchanges in many other states, combines enrollment for Medicaid and commercial insurance and is still having trouble determining eligibility.

Oregon's risk consultant, Maximus, had warned the state that it could miss the Oct. 1 deadline and suggested that it separate Medicaid and commercial insurance enrollment so that at least one would be ready, but Cover Oregon rejected the idea, The AP said.

There is still no estimate for when online enrollment will be available, and officials are reportedly encouraging people to fill out a paper application or an online PDF, which will be processed by hand.

In Massachusetts, the state's $69 million website has exceeded its budget and missed deadlines, and is now turning to hardware and database manufacturer Oracle for help, reports The Boston Herald.

A review by the newspaper found the cost to develop the new technology soared 10.6 percent, from $62.4 million to $69 million, in just 16 months because of change orders and IT subcontractors, though many of the costs have been covered by federal grants to comply with Obamacare.

"Right now, I heard that the exchange is over budget, but not on the details," state Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz told The Herald.

He acknowledged that the state is working with Obamacare website developer CGI, which has "brought in some extra resources from Oracle."

State officials also conceded that they have missed key deadlines on various components, including one that verifies financial eligibility.

"There are some things that have fallen behind," Scott Devonshire, spokesman for the Massachusetts Health Connector, told The Herald.

"We were trying to avoid putting out functionality that didn't work," he said.

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