GOP Eyes Disastrous State-Run Obamacare Websites
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The Fiscal Times
February 19, 2014

Now that Obamacare’s federal website is working better for the majority of users, Republicans are turning their attention to several state-run exchanges that are still having major problems. The effort comes just ahead of the midterm elections, when the GOP plans to use Obamacare’s disastrous rollout as a campaign strategy.

This week Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to launch an investigation into the costs of three shoddily built state exchanges servicing Maryland, Oregon and Massachusetts, The Hill first reported. Like HealthCare.gov, these state websites have all been plagued with serious problems since they went live on Oct 1.

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In a letter to the GAO, the lawmakers requested the auditors review the federal grants that were originally supposed to help cover the costs of building the websites, but now have been used for the enormous repair effort that continues to incur costs.

"Subsequent to the disastrous rollout, additional federal dollars continue to be spent attempting to fix what… might not even be fixable," the letter said.

The federal website, HealthCare.gov has been estimated to cost upwards of $670 million, but this investigation will highlight the climbing costs of the states websites. 

Oregon has already received at least $304 million from the federal government for its disastrous exchange, which has yet to enroll a single person online. Oregonians have, instead, relied upon call centers and navigators to sign up for coverage.

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“The catastrophic breakdown of Cover Oregon is unacceptable, and taxpayers deserve accountability,” the letter, written by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) said.

Indeed, the website is so troubled that state officials have considered switching to the federal exchange during the next open enrollment period. Maryland is also considering making the switch.

According to The Hill, a separate letter to Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson sent by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) blasted HHS for spending millions on a lost cause, referring to Maryland’s exchange.   

“By the end of the year, over $100 million federal dollars will have been spent on a project that should have cost much less, and doesn't work,” Harris said.

State officials in Massachusetts are so furious with their shoddily built healthcare exchange that they are withholding the remainder of their $69 million contract from the contractor, CGI until the website is fully functioning. CGI is also the former lead contractor on HealthCare.gov, which was recently replaced with Accenture for an additional $90 million contract. CGI also designed several other state exchanges, including Vermont’s, which is also withholding pay because of their site’s poor performance.

So far, administration officials have said they are not planning to take action with regard to contract payments for the federal website. However, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has instructed the department’s inspector general to probe into the website’s development.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.