Maryland Officials Knew A Year In Advance That Obamacare Website Was A Disaster

by William Teach | January 12, 2014 8:21 am

Say, I wonder whether the problems and negligence surrounding the Maryland Exchange website will be a national story, where media dig into just who knew and when they knew, and what Governor Martin O’Malley (D) knew, and publish breathless reports, where we see crazy op-eds about the end of his career. Or will this just be a “local” story?

(Washington Post[1]) More than a year before Maryland launched its health insurance exchange, senior state officials failed to heed warnings that no one was ultimately accountable for the $170 million project and that the state lacked a plausible plan for how it would be ready by Oct. 1.

Over the following months, as political leaders continued to proclaim that the state’s exchange would be a national model, the system went through three different project managers, the feuding between contractors hired to build the online exchange devolved into lawsuits, and key people quit, including a top information technology official because, as he would later say, the project “was a disaster waiting to happen.”

The repeated warnings culminated days before the launch, with one from contractors testing the Web site that said it was “extremely unstable” and another from an outside consultant that urged state officials not to let residents enroll in health plans because there was “no clear picture” of what would happen when the exchange would turn on.

Within moments of its launch at noon Oct. 1, the Web site crashed in a calamitous debut that was supposed to be a crowning moment for Maryland officials who had embraced President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and pledged to build a state-run exchange that would be unparalleled.

Surely someone told the Governor, right? The monthly reports were basically saying “oh, crap, things are NOT going well”

Two of O’Malley’s Cabinet members, his senior IT advisers and leaders of the exchange received copies of the confidential monthly reports, according to distribution lists. The first was also summarized in the technically worded letter to lawmakers. Aides to the legislative leaders said that the significance of the warning was not clear at the time and that they never knew the outside audits continued.

It is a long, long story about just how bad the whole process was, about communications and memos of “dear lord, this thing is a mess”. But, you know, “lane closures”.

As of Friday, 20,358 people had selected private plans, and state officials have said they do not expect to come close to their initial goal of 150,000 by the end of March.

“Selected” (and certainly not “private plans”, considering the links to government). Have they paid? Received confirmation that they are officially enrolled? How many had to use paper and pen to “select”? One has to wonder how much this same story occurred in the other states that created their own Exchanges, along with the national Marketplace, and whether the media will investigate? Sorry, lane closures.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[2]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[3].

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