Massachusetts will give up on its nonfunctional Obamacare exchange website and dump the technology for an off-the-shelf model used by other states, officials announced Monday.
The website is too broken to fix, according to states officials, and instead of attempting costly repairs exchange officials have opted to use software called hCentive, which is also in use by several other state Obamacare exchanges.
But Massachusetts will also work on connecting to the federal exchange for 2015, in case the new website isn’t ready by the next open enrollment period in November.
“Thursday will mark an important milestone for our turnaround project,” read a statement Monday from Sarah Iselin, a special assistant to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick charged with heading the attempt to fix the exchange. “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. 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.”
The decision to proceed with a dual-track approach comes after meetings with Obama administration officials in Washington to consider a full federal takeover of the formerly successful exchange.
Massachusetts’ exchange is among the worst in the nation. The website crashed in October and hasn’t functioned properly since. The exchange shifted partially to paper applications, only to incur a 50,000-strong backlog which brought exchange director Jean Yang to tears at a board meeting in February. (RELATED: Massachusetts Obamacare exchange granted federal extension as director gently weeps)
As state officials failed to come up with manageable fixes in time, state residents looking for health insurance on the exchanges were shunted into temporary coverage through the state Medicaid program and given a three-month extension to enroll in the exchange. Massachusetts was granted a one-year extension to get its exchange Obamacare-compliant just weeks ago.
It’s the third state to give up on their exchange website.
Massachusetts, Maryland and Oregon have become the face of Obamacare tech failures in the states. All three blue states, ironically, received early innovator grants on top of their exchange funding, with the expectation that they’d succeed and serve as a model for other state Obamacare exchanges.
Like Massachusetts, Maryland opted to scrap its website entirely in favor of Connecticut’s model; Oregon officials announced last week they’d hand their exchange over to the federal government to administer instead.
But unlike the other struggling Democratic states, Massachusetts had a health care exchange that was functioning successfully when it began working towards Obamacare reforms.
Romneycare, implemented in 2006, created an Obamacare-like health care exchange for the state itself — the titular accomplishment of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney supposedly served as the inspiration for much of the Affordable Care Act.
Massachusetts originally took on CGI as its contractor, the same company that initially worked on the similarly disastrous HealthCare.gov. The state fired CGI in March, after six months of struggling with deleted applications, customers locked out of accounts, incomplete and incorrect information sent to customers and the failure of the 834 enrollment forms that communicate info to insurers.
State officials reportedly knew as early as April 2013, six months before enrollment was supposed to open that the website wouldn’t be ready — but it took until over a year later for officials to determine a proper course of action to fix the website. Now it’s not expected to be ready for another year.
The Massachusetts administration has been hit for failing to have a single agency or manager oversee the website’s creation, according to Forbes.
The exchange’s board will meet Thursday to discuss their new course of action.
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