Massachusetts Health Exchange is Still Broken—and Won't Be Fully Functional Until Next Fall



The Massachusetts health policy overhaul that Mitt Romney signed into law in 2006 was an explicit model for the 2010 federal reform.

Like Obamacare, the Massachusetts plan featured an individual mandate, subsidies for low income individuals to purchase health coverage, and a government-run online exchange to facilitate shopping for insurance.

Obamacare backers argued that the success of Massachusetts' reform proved that Obamacare would work everywhere else. Instead, the Bay State is one of the places where Obamacare is most obviously broken. Under Obamacare, the state's exchange simply doesn't work.

When Obamacare's network of state and federal exchanges launched last October, Massachusetts had to upgrade its technology in order to meet the federal law's specifications. But practically speaking, the upgrade has been a complete failure. The system has so far been unable to process anyone through the system electronically.

Obamacare's first open enrollment period—the window of time in which all people are allowed to buy policies through the law's exchanges—ends in just a few weeks, at the end of March. But in late February, state officials admitted that their upgraded exchange would likely not be fully operational by June, the extended enrollment date granted to it by the federal government.

Today the state announced that it will sever its relationship with CGI Federal, the tech vendor responsible for building both the Massachusetts exchange and the problem-plagued federal exchange. The Boston Globe reports:

"We have made the decision we're going to be parting ways with CGI," said Sarah Iselin, who was hired recently by Governor Deval Patrick to oversee repairs to the website, which hasn't worked properly since it was launched last October. The state has scrambled since then to sign up thousands of residents for health insurance that meets the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act, resorting to using paper applications.

Iselin said that the state will ask for a further extension of its enrollment window, the Globe reports. Officials say they hope that the state will have a finished, functional exchange ready and online for the 2015 open enrollment period, which begins next fall.