Reports from two more states and their experiences with ObamaCare exchanges show that the HHS effort has produced a lot of embarrassment across the board. Hawaii built its own exchange, one of just 16 states (plus DC) to build their own exchange, rather than rely on the federal exchange. Unfortunately for Hawaii, they chose the same contractor as HHS — CGI Federal — and ended up with even worse issues in the first two weeks (via Watchdog.org):
Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Coral Andrews said at a news conference Tuesday that consumers can now review and buy plans offered on the exchange’s website, HawaiiHealthConnector.com.
The re-launching of the website comes after more than two weeks of trying to fix technical problems that rendered the site unable to display plans and prices.
The delay caused some people without insurance to go directly to insurance companies, which offered the same plans without the ability to check for tax subsidies and other rebates. The website was developed by CGI Group Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in end-to-end information technology and business process services.
“To our community, I want to acknowledge and thank you for your patience in waiting for us to be able to get these prices and plans to you,” an apologetic Andrews told reporters.
Although consumers can now compare and contrast health plans online, the website was not without its glitches Tuesday. Consumers who tried to log on before 1 p.m. were greeted with a blank screen and a one line message that read: “This website is temporarily unavailable, please try again later.”
About a half hour later, the website was back up, but technical difficulties are providing critics of the Affordable Care Act fresh ammunition to rail against the unpopular legislation.
The cost to build Hawaii’s state website? According to one legislator, it was $53 million to serve 300,000 people, but only a third of those don’t already have health insurance. The contract got awarded on January 29th of this year, so CGI Federal burned through that cash in nine months to deliver a useless site on the deadline date. So how many people have signed up?
Andrews was unable to say Tuesday how many Hawaii residents have actually applied for health insurance under the exchange, but said Connector employees will manually process applications that were turned in before plans went live on the website.
According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance less than 50 people have enrolled. But some health clinics say it’s less than that.
Trish Sarvela with Partnership Community Health Center said she only knows of a few.
“Less than a handful,” she said.
At Partnership Community Health Center they communicate frequently with other county health clinics to see if anyone has signed up.
“Every day there are emails that go out. Do you know anybody who enrolled? It’s at that level it’s such a countdown for us,” said Sarvela.
Here we have both experiences, with a state exchange and the federal exchange, but with similar outcomes — failure. But has forcing more people into the federal exchanges has made the failures more acute? Jill Lawrence argues that Republican governors who blocked the creation of state exchanges have managed to do a lot more damage to ObamaCare than Republicans in Congress could manage with control of just one chamber:
Republicans are having a bad month, but they should cheer up. Sure, conservative lawmakers have flamed out in dozens of attempts to defund, delay, repeal and pick off pieces of the Affordable Care Act, and the GOP has taken the brunt of voter outrage over the shutdown precipitated by that crusade. Yet with a big assist from its governors, the party has already done damage to Obamacare in numerous, possibly profound ways.
Let’s start with the disastrous launch of the behemoth federal insurance exchange run by the Health and Human Services Department. Yes, Republicans managed to divert attention from that to their own comedy of errors on Capitol Hill. But don’t forget why the federal exchange,healthcare.gov, is so gigantic. It’s because just 16 states and the District of Columbia created or plan to create their own marketplaces. By contrast,almost all of the nation’s 30 Republican governors took a pass on setting up exchanges for their own states, punting that task to the feds. That along with other tactics and decisions amounts to what you might call the GOP Effect—damage that’s indirect, often uncoordinated, and possibly at times unintentional, but potent all the same.
For instance, some of the initial problems on the federal exchange were due to heavy traffic. It would not have been as much of a bottleneck had more governors created individual state exchanges. More serious and continuing problems are due to misjudgments and shortcomings embedded in the federal website itself, and the worst may be yet to come.
Micah Sifry, cofounder of the techpresident.com website, says the companies that end up winning big federal contracts—for instance, CGI Federal and major defense contractors—”are not known for their innovative or up-to-date technology. They are known for their ability to win contracts.”Political decisions by the Obama administration, such as requiring consumers to determine their subsidy eligibility before they can shop and see rates, also may be factors in the online mess.
The worst yet to come will be when the exchanges finally work — and people get the full brunt of the sticker shock. After that, a full year of paying nothing but higher premiums and higher deductibles without accessing coverage at all will have consumers hopping mad, just in time for the midterm elections.
Republicans haven’t damaged ObamaCare as much as it is a rolling disaster on its own. Americans are just getting around to discovering it, along with the shocking level of incompetence in the Obama administration that arrogated to itself the power to manipulate the health-insurance market.