Governors Are Fighting Back Against Bungled State Exchanges

President Obama isn’t the only politician granting extensions to sign up for healthcare. Governors of states that chose to implement their own marketplaces are reacting to the issues, scrambling to lengthen sign-up periods, and hitting back against contractors. In Maryland, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley announced on December 17 that after working with CareFirst, individuals signing up through the Maryland exchange would have until December 27 to sign select a plan and still have coverage starting January 1. The enrollment data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for October 1 through November 30 shows that 3,758 people selected a plan in Maryland.

In Massachusetts, enrollment figures were even lower — 1,1,38. In Vermont, they were better than the other two, 4,987, but that state, like Massachusetts, is unhappy with contractor CGI, the builder of the online exchange. CGI also fumbled the rollout of the federal exchange.

Massachusetts is preparing for legal action against CGI, the Boston Globe reports. Taxpayer money has already furnished $11 million to CGI, out of a $69 million contract, and no more money will be paid until the website is fully functioning. In the meantime, Massachusetts has been using paper notifications and an alternative software. “CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” Jason Lefferts, a spokesperson for the Commonwealth Health Connector said. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.”

Vermont is also refusing to pay CGI. The state has retained $5.1 million because deadlines were not met. Vermont will also dispute over $1 million dollars because of repeated failures to deliver. “I’m going to continue to hold their feet to the fire until they get it right,” Vermont Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin said.

Oregon is possibly the state with the worst exchange experience in the nation. The Associated Press reports that due to the website’s continued malfunctioning, the state has suspended its ad campaign. So far, $8 million had been spent in promotional materials, out of an original budget of $20 million. Almost the entire budget was federally funded. Pew compiled data on the state-based exchanges. It found that on average, $30 per person was spent to create a website to purchase insurance. In Oregon, the cost was twice the average — $62.09 per person — for a website that is not working.

The state has had to rely on paper applications, and Cover Oregon hired 400 people to manually process applications. This could be why the last CMS report claimed only 44 people had selected a plan in the marketplace. The Associated Press figures says it is closer to 36,000. Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber issued a statement saying that he has made it clear to Oregon’s contractor, Oracle, the state expects a “functioning website with no additional cost to the state.” Additionally, “Cover Oregon is acquiring independent outside legal counsel to ensure the state is exercising all options to hold contractors accountable for the website we need them to deliver.”

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