US
Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014. (REUTERS) Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014. (REUTERS)  

Massachusetts Obamacare Exchange To Beg Feds For Another $80 Million

The first-in-the-nation Massaachusetts Obamacare exchange is asking federal taxpayers to cough up another $80 million so the state can re-re-build its health-care exchange, the Boston Herald reports.

The federal government gave Massachsuetts $174 million to build an Obamacare exchange — even though the state already had a functioning health care exchange in place. The state says it will spend the entire grant — but that the exchange needs an extra $80 million from the federal government in order to pay its new contractors, bringing the grand total (so far) to $254 million.

“That does leave me speechless,” said Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez. “I understand the complexity of the project. At the same time, that’s a pretty big price tag to get out of a deal. Whether it’s federal or state dollars, it’s still taxpayer money.”

Massachusetts has hired Optum to replace CGI as its main contractor to re-build its Obamacare exchange. Officials only recently decided to move forward with rebuilding its own Obamacare exchange for the November open enrollment period, instead of moving to HealthCare.gov.

Meanwhile, experts have found even more problems with developing website. Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist and Obamacare architect, told the exchange board Thursday that the website is still missing a functioning out-of-pocket cost calculator and hit the website’s language for confusing customers.

Massachusetts had a functioning health care exchange in place before Obamacare was launched, but opted to accept the hefty federal grants available to revamp the website for Obamacare. But the new exchange, like several others, crashed last fall and has been plagued with technical problems since. (RELATED: Massachusetts Obamacare Exchange Granted Federal Extension As Director Gently Weeps)

The problems were so entrenched that hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents were temporarily given Medicaid while state exchange officials attempted to find a way to make health coverage available. That cost state taxpayers another $200 million, according to the Boston Herald.

Follow Sarah on Twitter