March 11 2014
Patrice J. Lee
Healthcare.gov was not the only troubled ObamaCare website that rolled out last fall. Maryland’s state exchange website rollout was even more woeful – if that’s possible. And unlike with the federal website, someone may actually be held accountable.
At the request of Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican Congressman, who sits on a House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the health department, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General will launch an investigation into what went wrong the contracting, development, and oversight of the website that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and rising. Investigators will look at the procedures state officials followed in contracting with the tech companies behind the site’s botched development and troubles with Medicaid enrollment that are expected to significantly drive up costs.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
A federal inspector general is launching a review into what went wrong with Maryland's health insurance exchange, the first examination focused specifically on how millions of dollars in federal money was spent by the state, according to the lawmaker who requested the probe.
State legislators also are scrutinizing problems with Maryland's online exchange, which crashed on its first day last fall and has had continued problems, including feuding contractors and major software issues. The state review is not expected to be completed until mid-2015 — well after this year's gubernatorial primary and general election.
A significant amount of public funding has been used to develop and repair Maryland's health exchange. Maryland expects to spend $261 million on the exchange by the end of 2015 — more than 80 percent of it federal money.
The review by the Office of Inspector General offers an opportunity for a unique accounting of what happened. The agency is likely to be able to quickly collect documents from HHS — the federal agency that largely funded the state's site. And the inspector general has subpoena power.
The scope of the inspector general's review is not clear. Harris requested answers to five questions, including how contracts were awarded, what internal controls were in place and "who specifically failed in their responsibilities to safeguard federal taxpayer money."
Auditors could review all or none of those questions. They could fold an examination of Maryland's site into a broader report of other states that experienced problems. The separate GAO report will review exchanges in several states.
Finally, someone is investigating the waste of taxpayer dollars on the black hole that has become ObamaCare. Maryland is the start and a good one, but shouldn’t be the end. The end should be a larger investigation into the federal healthcare.gov website.
According to watchdog groups, reviews by federal inspector generals are thorough and specific and will tie in criminal investigators in an effort to expose any fraud and waste and hold someone accountable.
Maryland was one of 14 states that chose to build its own health insurance exchange rather than rely on a web portal created by the federal government. As we recently reported, Maryland’s online exchange remains in turmoil and state officials are considering whether to fix the website, replace the whole system, or forgo the $65.4 million it has already paid to the contractors and nixing everything entirely.
While the loss of potentially hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is bad enough, it would be a greater loss to continue down a path that cannot be redeemed or fixed. ObamaCare was a bad idea from the start and remains a bad deal for individuals. It’s also a bad deal for taxpayers. There is no evidence that we’re receiving any sort of return for our investment into a plan that many objected to and were forced to become a part of. Let’s hope someone will be held accountable.