Sarah Kliff Baffled by Massachusetts Obamacare Failure

It's really baffling. How could a 2000 plus page complex law which makes no economic sense known as Obamacare possibly fail?

Sarah Kliff of General Electric Vox is also baffled but specifically about the utter failure of Obamacare in Massachusetts. Of course, just about everything except the kitchen sink and Obamacare itself is blamed. So let us now watch Kliff play the blame game with the notable exception of you-know-what:

Massachusetts pioneered universal health care in 2006. Under then-Governor Mitt Romney, it was the first state to guarantee access to insurance — and drove its uninsured rate down to just 4 percent.

Which makes it baffling that Massachusetts did arguably the worst of any state in implementing Obamacare. Like a handful of ardent Obamacare supporters in other states, Massachusetts officials tried to pull off an ambitious launch — and failed badly.

"It was a management failure," says Don Berwick, who previously oversaw health law implementation for the Obama administration and is currently a candidate for Massachusetts governor. "Like the federal system, the state should have thrown the best IT support into it."

Not the failure of Obamacare. Just a management failure in implementing it. So where to turn for salvation? Why the Obama administration itself which wasted over $600 million on its own Obamacare launch:

The state is now in talks with the Obama administration about what a transition to would look like — and is also exploring whether it can work with a different technology vendor to build a new site. "There aren't a lot of options," says Sarah Iselin, a special assistant to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who was brought on in February to help with the health overhaul. "We unfortunately didn't get it right."

Unfortunately. So what to do now? Ladies and gentlemen. Let's all play the Blame Game!

Come on everybody!
Now let's play a game,
I betcha I can make a rhyme,
Out of everybody's blame!

This was not Massachusetts' plan. The state spent years trying to build what they hoped would be the country's most advanced marketplace. What got in their way, state officials and outside experts say, were poor management, a too-ambitious agenda, and a failed relationship with its main technology vendor, CGI — the same company that managed the failed launch of

'Bama, 'Bama,  Obama...Obamacare!
Pick your blame but not this name
I do dare!

Gen-Gen! A-Gendah!
Blame Blame Tech Ven-dah!
Vent! Vent!
Blame Game!!!

Of course a good Blame Game article needs a really memorable quote:

"We shot for the moon, and we missed," M.I.T. health economist Jon Gruber, who is a member of the Health Connector's board of directors, says.

But did you get a lousy T-shirt out of the deal?

There were three agencies working on the launching the new exchange: MassHealth (the state Medicaid program), the Connector, and Massachusetts Medical School. One audit report from December 2012, which showed the project already behind schedule, cited "inefficient communication" between those three agencies as one reason for the delays.

Ah! Another excuse. Inefficient communications. Just stay away from blaming our sacred Obamacare.

"There wasn't a single point of management," Gruber says. "It was poorly set up and it was this horrible combination where the contractor would get different orders, and would do none of them."

Oh, and the dog ate my homework.

"We had the wrong vendor partner...and that wrong partner failed us, leaving us where we are today," Iselin says.

And now we present another litany of excuses. Hit it, Sarah!

Others put more blame on the state agencies, which made numerous changes to the what they wanted CGI to build. According to one source familiar with the project, the three Massachusetts' agencies requested more than 400 changes to its scope over the course of the contract.

..."If you were applying for unsubsidized coverage, it was error-prone but you could get through," says Iselin. "If you were applying for subsidized coverage, all you could do is enter your application. Aside from the intake, we had no exchange website."

..."Screens were disappearing, information wasn't there, people thought they had submitted an application but it actually hadn't gone through," says Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, who runs the consumer group Massachusetts Health Care for All.

And future excuses for Obamacare failure are already being prepared:

The state is now exploring whether it can work with a different technology vendor called hCentive to build a new site or whether it will transition to Massachusetts estimates that the new exchange will cost $121 million — and none of the options on the table, Iselin says, are perfect.

My time saving advice for Sarah Kliff is to copy this article and then paste with only the names of the states changed for all future Obamacare failure stories. Oh, and don't forget. We must never blame Obamacare itself. Taboo!

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P.J. Gladnick's picture