Massachusetts Obamacare Exchange To Ask Feds For Another $121 Million For Website Re-do

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The Massachusetts Obamacare exchange board has approved a plan to scrap the formerly operable Romneycare exchange entirely and ask the federal government for another $121 million to pay for a brand new software system.

Exchange officials still aren’t sure whether the new system will be up and running by the fall — a valid worry given their inability even to shift its formerly operable Romneycare exchange into a working Obamacare website. They’ll also spend the next several months preparing a shift to HealthCare.gov for the next open enrollment period in case the new website isn’t working in time.

Insurers are unenthusiastic about the plan. Eric Linzer of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans warned at a board meeting Thursday that some health care plans may be forced to leave the exchange entirely due to the complex nature of the exchange’s new plan.

“We cannot overstate the complexity and technical issues that come with having to develop two separate systems,” Linzer wrote to exchange board members. All Massachusetts insurers, not just the exchange itself, will have to set up systems for a successful state-run marketplace in the fall and for one run out of HealthCare.gov.

Linzer suggested that the state’s Obamacare customers could have options limited and prices hiked if Massachusetts insists on preparing for both possibilities. Insurers preferred that the state forgo the option to join the federal system entirely, and state officials agree.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for governor, came out against the option to join HealthCare.gov on Wednesday, as did Republican nominee Charlie Baker. Both pointed to the state’s proven ability to run a successful exchange under Romneycare, despite its recent failures with the national health care law.

But the hefty price tag for the state’s re-do proposal may cause others pause. The $121 million request would be in addition to $180 million that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has already spent on the Massachusetts exchange, according to a Thursday report. (RELATED: State That Opposed Obamacare Spent The Least Per Person On Enrollment

That puts Massachusetts’ total federal spending per person signed up for coverage at $5,681 — the third highest in the nation.

Massachusetts is planning on purchasing software for its new state-run website from hCentive, a Virginia company which also built New York’s, Kentucky’s and Colorado’s Obamacare exchanges.

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