Ma connect

It’s no secret that ObamaCare’s father is RomneyCare in Massachusetts, and as we look to the problems that plague a government run health care system, The Bay State is a good place to start. Case in point: corruption in the system.

Josh Archambault, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability has dug into the state’s $1 billion ObamaCare exchange and found many discrepancies and issues that should concern everyone.

Culled from “publicly available third-party audits and hours of interviews with multiple whistleblowers with first-hand knowledge,” Josh found that Massachusetts officials:

  • Failed to execute a contract with CGI, the vendor hired to build the site, that would track the progress of the project and ensure on-time delivery of a product that included all required features;
  • Failed to commit sufficient resources to the project, resulting in workers sending documents to their home computers to open them, and to demand that CGI commit the additional resources necessary to complete the job on time, at an acceptable level of quality;
  • Repeatedly failed to hold CGI accountable for shoddy work, and for missing required deadlines, often pushing technical staff to approve faulty results, and firing at least one for refusing;
  • Failed to implement a governance structure that would ensure ongoing quality of the project, as CGI dealt with at least three competing visions for the website;
  • Exerted insufficient leadership, leading to glaring communications gaps both among state stakeholders and between the Commonwealth and CGI, with key officials regularly skipping meetings, and failing to take any minutes when meetings did take place causing basic decisions to be relitigated repeatedly;
  • Attempted to conceal these shortcomings by misrepresenting the progress of the health insurance exchange to a number of stakeholders including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; the Massachusetts Health Connector Board of Directors, the media and the public.

Like we’ve seen in many other states that implemented their own ObamaCare exchanges, the Commonwealth’s was a bungled mess where only a few of its promised features worked at launch. In fact the “only consumers who would be able to enroll in a health plan were those not seeking subsidies,” and amazingly, “testing completed just before the launch revealed a 90 percent failure rate.” But they still went through with it anyway.

As The Wall Street Journal makes clear, “CGI almost certainly broke its contractual obligations to Massachusetts.” The article continues, pointing out, “the project routinely attempted to conceal problems rather than fix them,” and “political appointees repeatedly misrepresented their progress to Health and Human Services officials, whether out of ignorance or perhaps to keep the federal ObamaCare-funding spigot flowing.”

Archambault found that in at least two instances, what Massachusetts told the federal government “was either in direct conflict with internal audits or highly improbable given what was being said in the audit and what whistleblowers said was happening at the time.”

A project insider told Josh, “It’s like when you’re a kid and you do something wrong and you are waiting to be caught. We were waiting for people to recognize how bad this was, because we had done everything we could to escalate. We were always told to be quiet, it doesn’t matter, don’t say anything.” Essentially, “the Massachusetts ObamaCare experience was not merely a problem of quality control but of political accountability—or worse.”

How did the failures of the Massachusetts Health Connector impact people?

As a result of the failed website more than 325,000 Massachusetts residents were placed in a transitional Medicaid program without any eligibility determination and tens of thousands of applicants for health insurance found themselves in danger of losing coverage altogether.

This has meant that the “impact on the integrity of the state’s Medicaid program and the state budget has been enormous and is still not fully understood.”

“The sad tale of the Connector revamp after the passage of the Affordable Care Act is not just another poorly procured and managed IT project,” says Jim Stergios, Executive Director of Pioneer Institute. “Its implications touch on the governance of state IT projects and potentially on fraudulent actions by state officials.”

In his digging, Archambault also discovered that Massachusetts “may have illegally paid CGI more than $50 million for work the company never completed.”

The new governor in The Bay State, Charlie Baker, has been working to clean up the mess at the “connector” board, forcing four of its board members to resign, including the infamous Jonathan Gruber, who noted that ObamaCare passage was in part due to “the stupidity of the American voter.”

Amidst the revelations and outrage about the mismanagement and corruption of this state exchange, the “FBI and U.S. Attorney for Boston have subpoenaed records related to the commonwealth’s ‘connector’ dating to 2010.”

The Wall Street Journal sums this up nicely saying:

“it is a sad comment on American politics that law enforcement may prove to be the only other institution that holds someone responsible for failure.”

The mismanagement and failures noted here, as well as the infamous failure of the Oregon exchange should serve as a warning to states currently debating setting up exchanges pending the outcome of the King v Burwell Supreme Court decision due in June.

Taxpayers and those needing affordable health care deserve better than millions, maybe billions, being flushed down the drain and no still little relief for those feeling the impact of rising health care costs under ObamaCare.

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