General Court Silent On Connector Meltdown: Connector Playing Whac-A-Mole With Enrollment

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ConnectorDue to poor project management and failing IT contractors, the Connector has been forced into a very expensive game of whac-a-mole for enrollment under the ACA. Even after a tense Connector Board meeting last week, what remains unclear is how quickly the IT issues will be resolved, how much it will cost taxpayers, and why the public was told everything was functional up until the first day of open enrollment Oct 1st.

Thankfully the media is finally turning up the spotlight on the major breakdown at the Massachusetts Connector over the past few months. Coverage last week included the  Boston GlobeBoston HeraldSpringfield Republican and WLLP Channel 22. I will be writing about the depth of the problems in the near future. (If you are interested, pro-ACA group Health Care For All has a review of the Connector Board meeting.)

Meanwhile in another blue state that has struggled to get things up and running, the Legislative branch has started to turn up the heat.

In Minnesota, a bipartisan oversight committee has started to hold hearings, and the Legislative Auditor has pledged a “thorough forensic analysis.” Coverage here, here, and here.

According to McKenna Long & Aldridge, “Cover Oregon and Vermont Health Connect, are in the early stages of launching investigations into their marketplace troubles.”

By contrast, the Connector Board members are just starting to ask some tough questions about failures, and it was clear from the board meeting that they are largely not in the loop.

An outside consultant has been hired to look at the internal technical issues, with a report deadline of January 17th. I have little hope that their final report will be as exhaustive as the one in Minnesota or even helpful in making sure the same problem doesn’t happen again in the future. (For example, a Board member rightfully asked if the review would include an examination of UMass’s role in running the IT contract with CGI, and the Connector staff quickly moved on with a general answer that “everything would be looked at,” after just describing the report as limited to identifying the remaining technical issues of the website.)

Furthermore, I am not sure what level of accountability will come from a technical review. It should be noted that the original executive director of the Minnesota exchange has already resigned due to weak exchange performance, and the follow up reports planned will look at the procurement process, and governance questions, on top of the technical issues.

Yet many, more immediate questions remain unanswered about the cost of the temporary coverage for 28,000 individuals put onto MassHealth temporarily due to website issues, the cost to hire a consultant, and the estimated future IT costs to fix the problem. In addition, low enrollment could jeopardize the financial health of the Connector. All of these factors should engender legislative hearings, yet the State House has been quiet. When will state budget writers and policymakers start to show an interest?

Find me on twitter: @josharchambault