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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Obamacare Disaster Tales from North Carolina, Vermont, Connecticut



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Another Obamacare success story:

In North Carolina, nine companies sell plans, but only two of those are on the exchange and only one of those sells statewide.

Let’s check in on that one company:

WNCN Investigates learned the state’s largest insurer has experienced a number of problems with the system.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has more than 3.7 million customers in our state, but internal emails obtained by WNCN show that as of last Friday, only one person had enrolled for health insurance through the Exchange and that person hasn’t paid.

Without payment, enrollment means nothing because the customer is still not officially in the system.

Part of that payment issue may come from the government’s technical problems. Blue Cross Blue Shield emails indicate the “payment re-direct option” on the government servers isn’t working. In fact, the government’s whole system is so plagued that emails say BCBS made a “business decision to refrain from uploading data” to prevent false data from entering its system.

Meanwhile, people are not embracing BCBS’s marketplace. According to those emails, less than 1,000 people even filled out applications as of Oct. 25.

So . . . fewer than 1,000 completed applicants, no purchases.

This is where Obamacare defenders traditionally whine, “if only the states had built their own exchanges!” Except that some states did build their own exchanges, and are seeing even worse problems, like in Vermont:

The state hired several companies to bring the changes to life. The work didn’t come cheap and in many cases WCAX discovered the costs continue to rise.

“Many of these contracts were no bid contracts — they were executed without competitive bidding,” Brock said.

WCAX dug into the documents detailing the largest no-bid contract. It was awarded to Canadian IT giant CGI. An administrative memo shows the deal went forward after negotiations with a another vendor fell apart. Looming federal deadlines didn’t give Vermont enough time to shop around. Out of time, the Shumlin administration signed an expedited contract with CGI, the same vendor building the botched federal website — healthcare.gov. CGI’s original contract with Vermont was for $42,470,347. Three revisions later, the cost doubled to $83,998,004 — and the website still isn’t working . . . 

Then there’s the no-bid contract for Vermont Health Connect’s Public Relations and Media Plan. Richmond, Vermont based ad agency HMC was contracted to develop the exchange’s ad campaign and buy commercial time. State officials say they didn’t shop around because HMC already has a long standing agreement with the state to place all of its media ads. The original cost of that contract was $90,000. Today — the price tag is $2,290,000, or a 2,444% increase.

Hey, at least folks in Vermont get to know the price tags. In Connecticut, it’s a different story:

How much is Maximus making in Connecticut? In a press release, the company valued the contract at $15 million over three years, for staffing and operating the call center. But that lump sum is all the information the company provides.

Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, wouldn’t confirm the $15 million price tag. And while it will say that it is paying a per minute fee per call, it won’t say how that fee is calculated. In fact, its contract with Maximus that it makes available to the public blacks out all language that has to do with pricing.

That means that taxpayers can’t know how much the state of Connecticut is paying Maximus.


Tags: Obamacare


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