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Some State Sites Are Still Stuck

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From the time it went live on Oct. 1 until the midnight sign-up deadline on March 31, the glitch-plagued federal healthcare​.gov website has been the subject of much finger-pointing and name-calling. But lost in the Affordable Care Act flap is the fact that some of the state-run enrollment websites performed even worse.

Fourteen states opted to create their own health care exchanges instead of defaulting to the federal website. While some of those states – most notably California, Kentucky and Washington – hit their enrollment goals, several other states saw their exchanges turn into a massive flop.

The Los Angeles Times reports that officials in Oregon, Massachusetts and Maryland are considering legal action against the contractors who created their exchange sites. Oregon and Massachusetts are considering a move to the federal exchange, while Maryland officials are planning to adopt technology used in Connecticut’s successful state exchange.

Oregon residents still are unable to use their state’s troubled website, and those who did manage to enroll before March 31 accomplished that task using paper applications.

In Minnesota, consultants said it could take two years to fix that state’s website. Although Minnesota managed to exceed its sign-up goal, thousands of would-be enrollees saw their online applications freeze or disappear into what Gov. Mark Dayton called a “black hole.”

Maryland is planning a “do-over,” scrapping its problematic website and creating a new system in time for the next enrollment period, which begins in November.

Massachusetts should be an old hand at getting its residents signed up for health care, as “Romneycare” has mandated individual coverage in that state since 2006. But the Massachusetts challenge was to move its covered residents into plans that were ACA compliant. In the process, its exchange website failed, leaving officials to put more than 125,000 people on the Medicaid rolls to avoid a gap in their coverage.

In addition to considering legal action, states are racing to fix their technology problems before federal grant money dries up.

In Hawaii, legislators are looking at whether to bail out the state exchange — which has spent $100 million and enrolled only 5,744 people in private plans — by providing the $15 million it will need for next year’s operating costs.

In each of these troubled states, officials have some flexibility this year to use grant money to fix their broken systems. But federal money to operate the exchanges runs out next year, so the states are also facing the challenge of making their exchanges fiscally sustainable.

Meanwhile, officials in some states that have experienced these technical problems are giving their residents a few extra weeks to complete their enrollment.

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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