Massachusetts Obamacare exchange granted federal extension as director gently weeps
The Massachusetts Obamacare exchange has been awarded a three-month extension from the Obama administration to fix its broken website and get customers enrolled, exchange officials announced Thursday.
Jean Yang, head of the flailing Massachusetts Health Connector, wept at a Thursday board meeting over her staff’s demoralizing struggle to prevent residents from losing coverage in the face of a broken website and mountain of paper applications to be processed, the Boston Globe reports.
The state had requested a six-month extension from the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. Massachusetts already had an exchange-based health care system similar to Obamacare.
Staff is working on a backlog of 50,000 paper applications, exchange officials announced at the board meeting, which Yang said would take two hours each to process.
The stress left Yang in tears at the board meeting as she described her staff’s malaise.
“These people came here to lead and innovate, and instead they’re doing manual workarounds, and they are embarrassed to tell friends and family that they work for the Health Connector,” Yang cried.
“We have to work harder,” Yang concluded. “That means I need to tell the staff members they’re not doing a good enough job and I’m telling them that, even though they have been doing this tirelessly for months, and they’re exhausted.”
Getting through the 50,000 application pile-up will be vital for Massachusetts official to bring their exchange up to snuff. Through the end of January, just 8,000 individuals signed up for health coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) latest report Wednesday.
Massachusetts’ original target was 155,000, putting the state at only 5 percent of their goal.
Thanks to the federal extension, Massachusetts’ enrollment for Obamacare coverage will remain open for another three months, while the exchange attempts to create a functioning online exchange.
The waiver also extends deadlines for programs that would be canceled after Mar. 31, such as the state-funded insurance program Commonwealth Care. The 124,000 program participants will keep their plans through June 30, along with another 31,000 new applicants will receive temporary coverage as well, according to the Associated Press.
The Obama administration extension didn’t, however, apply to individual private plans that will expire before Mar. 31. Those customers must purchase a new, Obamacare-compliant plan before that date in order to avoid the individual mandate penalty. Exchange officials hope to offer a “fast path” to coverage for those individuals.
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