State sites outperform HealthCare.gov

Curt KwakCurt Kwak

Several exceed enrollment goals

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When President Obama addressed massive problems with the federal health-insurance exchange website last week, he couldn’t cite any actual enrollments in health plans offered through the site.

At the same time, several states running their own exchanges have exceeded federal-enrollment targets, including California, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. As of Oct. 28, Washington’s online site -- the Washington Healthplanfinder -- had enrolled 48,995 people.

What accounts for the different experiences of the state and federally managed exchanges? Why are the exchanges that the federal government runs so bug-ridden, subjecting users to long delays and possibly even more serious problems?

The federal agency managing the exchange -- the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- did not respond to queries about the nature of the problems.

And the federal exchange’s primary contractor, CGI, declined to comment.

[See also: What happened to Healthcare.gov?]

But in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Oct. 22, CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner acknowledged the serious problems that have afflicted the online effort, and she targeted outside contractors as the source of the problems.

“CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programs depend on to function,” she said in document provided in advance. “Unfortunately, a subset of those contracts for HealthCare.gov have not met expectations.”

[See also: CMS chief pledges HealthCare.gov fix.]

Still, even if many of the details of the problems are still unknown, consultants and state technology officials say there are important lessons to be learned from a comparison.

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