SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

March 26, 2014

Bungling mars health care deadline

(Continued)

“These are not numbers. These are people throughout the state who don’t have health insurance,” said Lynn Etkins, an attorney and vice chairwoman of the board overseeing the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

A week later, Nevada exchange executive director Jon Hager announced his resignation to pursue “new opportunities.”

It is a similar story in Oregon, where the exchange’s executive director and two officials who oversaw the early technology development resigned. As of last week, 47,000 Oregonians had signed up for private insurance, less than a quarter of initial projections for the full enrollment period.

The exchange’s website was so badly bungled that applications at the beginning had to be processed manually, a process that remains partially in use. Cover Oregon has withheld $26 million of the $160 million billed by Oracle, which designed the website.

The federal Government Accountability Office has announced an investigation, and a state-funded audit released last week found a failure by the exchange’s managers to heed reports of problems, poor communication and what it described as “unrealistic optimism.”

In announcing results of the audit, Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber said he was angry and disappointed in a process that had caused so much confusion and uncertainty among consumers.

Maryland’s exchange crashed at the start of open enrollment on Oct. 1 and has been rocky ever since. The exchange’s initial executive director, Rebecca Pearce, quit two months into open enrollment, and last month Maryland fired the state’s prime information technology contractor, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, after paying it $65 million.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, called for a review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services into how $250 million in federal money was used in the botched exchange. The department’s inspector general informed Harris that it will conduct the review.

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