According to public records the recently redesigned Health Connector website, referred to as HC 2.0, cost twenty times more to develop than the initial Health Connector Exchange. A review of public records, confirmed by Health Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts, shows that $3,449,520 was spent on initial development of the Romneycare Exchange. The Health Connector has signed a $69M contract for the still malfunctioning Obamacare exchange, of which $11,000,000 has been paid according to representatives of the Health Connector.
In an emailed statement Lefferts told Red Mass Group, “total payments to CSC [the HC 1.0 contractor] from Jan. 2007-Sept. 2009 total $3,449,520.” As time went on tweaks to the code and maintenance were needed, Lefferts continued, “additional website development and maintenance costs from 2009-Sept. 2013 total $5,290,124.”
The Boston Herald has reported heavily on the development of the new website. Consistently reporting that the new site cost $69,000,000. That is an approximate 20 time higher initial cost.
Under the original website, the Commonwealth achieved a 97% health insurance coverage rate of her citizens. The website allowed people to purchase insurance, or download forms to apply for subsidized coverage. A quick review of the Health Connector Facebook page this morning shows that as of the past 24 hours, the new site is not allowing for the same level of service.
On October 30, 2013 the President and Governor Patrick took to the stage at Faneuil Hall to tell the nation that they should be patient, that in Massachusetts it took some time for the website to work and the program to be effective. The implied notion was that Romneycare and Obamacare were the same. Public records and the statements of the Health Connector’s Lefferts tell a different story.
Trying to explain why the new site cost significantly more than the old site Lefferts said:
Massachusetts has been a national leader in health care access and affordability, and by implementing the reforms of the Affordable Care Act – which bring new choice, benefits and expanded subsidies – Massachusetts can maintain that leadership role. The new online system is extremely big and complex, and our old system looks very basic in comparison. We are going from tapping out “Chopsticks” on a piano to conducting an orchestra. In the past, for example, those seeking subsidized coverage would need to fill out a paper application. Right now, through the first phase of our new system, online applications are available to everyone, and the information is run through the federal data services hub for confirmation. Additional functionality that will be added soon will create an immediate determination of program type and subsidy amount. This includes checking on over 250 program types and making a proper determination. After the determination is made, users can compare plans and make a selection. The Massachusetts Health Connector received an Early Innovator Grant from the federal government, along with other funding, to create this new system. This system will let anyone apply for subsidized care through any program, which we call a “no wrong door” model. It is a very ambitious goal and one that when completed will be more robust than what most states are offering.
Ed Lyons, a Boston Technology executive with experience building health insurance websites, had this to say about the $69M price tag to achieve their goals, “The numbers I have seen for the ACA implementation for the Health Connector software – something around $69 million so far, seem extraordinarily high to me. I cannot come up with an excellent comparison to a private-sector insurance application, but I have seen many online insurance enrollment applications that have a similar user experience for less than 10% of that cost, even though they don’t have to talk to the federal government and have fewer plan options. I have seen some state government applications related to Medicaid that were large and cost between $10 and $15 million”
Governor Patrick recently said that health care reform is “not a website, but a values statement.”
Emmalee Kalmbach, communications director of the Massachusetts Republican Party said, “our Governor claims to be concerned about the value of a website, yet what value does a website have when you spend 20 times the amount of money for something that doesn’t work properly?”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that $69M had been spent so far on the exchange website. Jason Lefferts of the Health Connector says that a $69M contract has been awarded but only $11M has so far been paid out.