Massachusetts Forced to Scrap State Obamacare Website, Plans New Multimillion-Dollar Strategy

Massachusetts plans to junk its faulty and glitch-riddled online health insurance website, state officials said Monday, explaining that it’d be too expensive and time-consuming to repair a system that has left residents without coverage for months.

Massachusetts will scrape its current online health insurance exchange and start all over (Image source:
Massachusetts will scrape its current online health insurance exchange and start all over (Image source:

The state plans to craft an entirely new online exchange, and will temporarily replace its current system with the federal marketplace used in several other states, all at an estimated cost of approximately $100 million, the Boston Globe reported

“As late as March, the state had considered rebuilding the balky Health Connector site, which has left thousands of consumers frustrated and many without coverage for months,” the report said. “But Sarah Iselin, the insurance executive whom Governor Deval Patrick tapped to oversee repairs to the site, said that approach turned out to be far too risky.”

The Globe reported that the proposed multimillion-dollar strategy to build a new website has created uncertainty among both consumers and insurance providers.

The state’s online exchange needs to be in working order by November 15 so residents can enroll in a plans for 2015. The state is reportedly under great pressure from the Obama administration to meet this deadline.

“The responsible and prudent thing to do was to have another plan,” Iselin said. “Unlike other IT projects where the deadlines are self-imposed, we have a law. It’s not flexible.”

Iselin said the plan to create a new system and temporarily enroll residents through the federally run exchange will cost about 30 percent less than fixing the state’s current online system. She added that it’s unclear how much money the federal government and Massachusetts taxpayers will be required to contribute to help build the new website.

“That’s what we’re talking to them about right now,’’ Iselin said. “We have been very clear that digging ourselves out of the hole we are in is going to cost us more money than we originally anticipated.’’

State officials are also worried that the new system will force certain insurance providers to drop plans because of price changes.

“I can’t overstate the complexity and technical issues that come with not having to develop just one but two separate systems,” Massachusetts Association of Health Plans spokesman Eric Linzer said. “Given the time frame in which all this has to be implemented, this is going to be a significant undertaking for plans.”

As of this writing, it’s uncertain whether the federal government plans to contribute taxpayer dollars to help Massachusetts move forward with its new strategy.

“Federal officials haven’t made any commitment to what they can do yet,’’ Iselin said. “While there are many details to work through, we are committed to having the least disruptive experience as possible.’’

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