Pretty much from the beginning of the entire, sad Obamacare debacle, Maryland has been one of the driving stories. They were heralded as one of the earliest adopters of the idea, stepping up to set up their own state exchange and proudly proclaiming that they would be a model for the rest of the nation – a claim which the President trumpeted on more than one occasion. As it turns out, they really were the model for the country. Many stories broke early on, with their director having to resign after vacationing in the islands while the site crashed and burned. As recently as this month their site was sending users to other locations as if they had incorporated Apple Maps into the program.
But now, the Washington Post has finished digging through the archives of their documents and found that Maryland was well ahead of the curve in another area as well. They knew their national model of a site was a disaster at least a year before it was turned on.
More than a year before Maryland launched its health insurance exchange, senior state officials failed to heed warnings that no one was ultimately accountable for the $170 million project and that the state lacked a plausible plan for how it would be ready by Oct. 1.
Over the following months, as political leaders continued to proclaim that the state’s exchange would be a national model, the system went through three different project managers, the feuding between contractors hired to build the online exchange devolved into lawsuits, and key people quit, including a top information technology official because, as he would later say, the project “was a disaster waiting to happen.”
The repeated warnings culminated days before the launch, with one from contractors testing the Web site that said it was “extremely unstable” and another from an outside consultant that urged state officials not to let residents enroll in health plans because there was “no clear picture” of what would happen when the exchange would turn on.
Wow. That story sounds awfully familiar, but the back story described in this report really brings it into focus. More than a year before launch the design team was missing deadlines – a fact that was apparently brushed off by the governor’s office. They were also supposed to have penned agreements with a variety of state agencies early last year which would allow them to access data from Medicaid and the DMV among others. Yet when they were asked, those agencies reported that nobody had contacted them. $9M in federal funds was set aside for a designated watchdog who would ensure that the development process rolled out smoothly. I’m not sure what he was watching… perhaps squirrels.
Maryland really does look like a smaller, test laboratory of the federal site, right down to the last disappointing detail. Read the rest for the full story, but it’s clearly yet another classic case of the government arriving to “help” you, flushing amazing amounts of cash down a rat hole and winding up with virtually nothing to show for it. But if there’s any good news on the horizon, Washington has now offered to jump in and help them out.
With many Marylanders still facing frozen computer screens and error codes when they attempt to select insurance, O’Malley is expected this coming week to decline an offer by the Obama administration to temporarily take over parts of the troubled site, despite the urging of some state Democrats to embrace the move. This past week, O’Malley acknowledged that the rollout “did not meet our expectations” but said that many things have been fixed and the state’s site is improving.
Why would you turn down help from the White House? What could possibly go wrong?