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The Outrageous Price Tag of Transitioning from Romneycare to Obamacare: Report

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“There has been little in the way of transparency regarding the cost of the exchange’s failure.”

US President Barack Obama chats with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (L) upon arrival at Worcester Regional Airport in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 11, 2014. Obama is in Worcester to speak at a high school commencement and will travel to Weston, Massachusetts, to attend a fundraiser. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The health care plan Massachusetts adopted in 2006 served as the model for the Affordable Care Act. But now, transitioning to federal law better known as Obamacare could cost the Bay State about $1 billion.

President Barack Obama chats with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick upon arrival at Worcester Regional Airport in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 11, 2014. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Massachusetts, which originated the concept of exchanges or marketplaces will likely spend more than $600 million over two years on setting up an exchange that complies with Obamacare, according to an analysis by the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based conservative think tank.

The cost of the new exchanges alone will cost more than the state spent on public health, early education and care, housing, economic development or the environment in 2013, according to the analysis.

The new transition to Medicaid – created last year when the state's exchange failed – will cost $540 million for calendar year 2014, according to the Pioneer Institute analysis released Wednesday. About 300,000 people are in the new Massachusetts Medicaid program. The Pioneer Institute study said the program had little eligibility verification. The costs for both exchanges and Medicaid comes to $1.14 billion.

But Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, contested the numbers in a statement issued by his office while the governor is on a European trade mission.

"One thing I won't miss is having to answer spurious charges from the Pioneer Institute based on politics rather than facts," Patrick said. "The truth is that Massachusetts is still successfully expanding health care and doing so within budget. The philosophical objections to the ACA of this reliable critic don't change that."

The exchanges were part of then-Gov. Mitt Romney's signature legislative achievement during his one term as governor. The state's health law was frequently referred to as Romneycare.

The program's changes lacks transparency and should be investigated, said Pioneer Institute Senior Fellow Josh Archambault, the study's author.

“There has been little in the way of transparency regarding the cost of the exchange’s failure,” Archambault said in a statement.

Archambault believes there should be both state and federal investigations into how the Massachusetts program was operated. This is in part because, he said, Massachusetts was required to verify eligibility of those enrolled in the exchanged and Medicaid within 180 days, but missed the deadline.

“I hope this report will prompt greater oversight and accountability of how taxpayer money is spent in the future,” Archambault said.

This is Patrick's final year in office, as Republican Charles Baker and Democrat Martha Coakley are facing off in the governor's race this year.

“The Legislature and the new Governor will be in for a rude awakening when the bill from the feds comes due early next year,” Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios said. “The cost will likely mean cuts to education, transportation, public safety, or higher taxes to fill the gap.”

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