recommended reading

Remember the HealthCare.gov Woes? State Exchanges Had the Same Problems

An information table advertising California's health care exchange sits in downtown Los Angeles in January.

An information table advertising California's health care exchange sits in downtown Los Angeles in January. // Reed Saxon/AP file photo

A parade of executives managing state online health care marketplaces shared stories with Congress on Thursday that echoed the turbulent tale of the federal site HealthCare.gov.

Troubles included glitchy launches, conflict with vendors and patchwork personnel changes. The fixes and workarounds instituted by state exchanges often included hiring 100 or more people to staff call centers and to manually process backlogged forms using state and federal grant money, the officials testified.

In most cases, though, as with the federal exchange, state exchanges were ultimately able to approach or meet enrollment targets despite technical challenges, officials told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

HealthCare.gov was barely functional during the first weeks after its Oct. 1 launch but has operated generally well since Dec. 1 following two months of round-the-clock repairs that included rewriting software code, adding additional server space and redesigning an overly complex management structure.

Few of the 15 state exchanges performed as poorly as HealthCare.gov during their first weeks online, but several suffered severe outages and error rates. The Minnesota marketplace MNsure, for example, peaked at a 22 percent error rate in October, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

HealthCare.gov was the primary Obamacare portal for 36 states, while 14 states and the District of Columbia built their own marketplaces.

Joshua Sharfstein, chairman of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board, attributed his state marketplace’s difficulties to overreliance on commercial, off-the-shelf technology rather than systems that were custom-built for the exchange. Vendors of those commercial systems made promises they weren’t able to deliver on, he said.

Ultimately, the Maryland marketplace contracted with QSSI, the same vendor that managed the HealthCare.gov fix, to bring its operations on track.

As with past Oversight hearings on Obamacare, much of Thursday’s questioning was consumed by partisan bickering with Republicans claiming state officials were being dishonest about meeting enrollment targets and Democrats charging that Republicans were attempting to relitigate Obamacare’s passage.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., argued that the decision to build, and then fix, state marketplaces and a federal marketplace had proven a costly failure and a waste of money.

“Whether you voted for the Affordable Care Act or you didn’t, redundant programs throughout most of 50 states that issued hundreds of millions of dollars per state to do the same thing again and again…[was] unreasonable, unnecessary and redundant in the planning,” Issa said. “For the states to all come together and use a common platform and common software was common sense.” 

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.