Maryland, Oregon exchanges still stuck in technological limbo
posted at 1:21 pm on November 20, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
For lack of better news to tout, the White House has lately been including the relatively more robust ObamaCare enrollment going on in some of the various state-controlled exchanges in their daily talking points rather than focusing on their own federal catastrophe (although, as ever, higher enrollment numbers are only a good thing if they are comprised of the right mix of both high- and low-cost individuals, which we won’t be able to judge for certain until the enrollment period is over), but most unfortunately, several of their most enthusiastic blue-state allies are still trying to work out website problems rivaling their own.
WaPo reports that Maryland has yet to effectively tackle their prohibitive tech problems, and points out that their website’s glitchiness is already being used as fodder for the progressive politicking that will likely decide who replaces Gov. O’Malley as the state’s top Democrat in 2014’s gubernatorial:
In October, the exchange’s first full month of operation, 1,278 people signed up for the private plans, and 465 signed up in the first week of November. Those low numbers raise questions about whether Maryland will achieve its enrollment target of 150,000 by the end of March. The state has about 800,000 uninsured residents.
Backup options, such as paper applications, are proving time-consuming and cumbersome. Front-line helpers must manually enter information from paper applications into electronic ones, using an internal state Web page available from only some government buildings. That puts access out of reach for many helpers working at community organizations. …
“What is surprising to me is that the state has been so supportive of the ACA, has messaged positively about it and invested in it early, that it’s a bit of a puzzle to me why the numbers are so low,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm.
And on the west coast, the state of Oregon still — still — hasn’t managed to sing up a single person through their online exchange, despite the ambitious website construction project they began well in advance:
But instead of serving as a national model, Oregon’s experience has emerged as a cautionary tale, inviting comparisons to technical glitches that have plagued other state-run portals and the federal government’s website for those states lacking exchanges of their own.
Oregon’s online exchange has remained inaccessible to the public, requiring the state to sign up applicants the old-fashioned way, using paper forms. This has made comparison shopping more difficult for consumers and severely slowed the enrollment process.
“Oregonians have questions,” said state Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, in a written statement on Tuesday. “What went wrong with the rollout? How are they going to fix it? When are they going to get it right? Is the website contractor doing everything it can? Our people need to know.”
Funnily enough, those are all questions that perfectly apply to the federal exchange, too, which fully or partially covers the ObamaCare operations of 36 states. The White House might be trying to redirect attention to individual states’ comparative successes with enrollment as positive signs, but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of states are still struggling with unworkable online portals, with no immediate end in sight.