ACA & The Connector: Is It Really Getting Better All the Time?

Massachusetts roll-out may be mirroring national woes

by David A. Shore

Mr. Shore is president of the Massachusetts Assoication of Health Underwriters (MAHU). Connect with him by e-mail

Ninety seven days. That’s the amount of time between Governor Patrick and President Obama praising the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact upon Massachusetts at Faneuil Hall and the release of a self-commissioned and highly critical report by independent technology firm, MITRE, on the state’s botched reform rollout.

In the wake of the recent public hearing detailing the Connector’s implementation failures, state officials are left clamoring for waivers from the federal government, turning to the insurance industry for solutions, and spending taxpayer money with unknown impact to our state budget. Residents are confused about their healthcare coverage and their ability to access doctors and hospitals.

Who’s really for it, and who’s really against it?

Remember that speech at Faneuil Hall? Back on October 30, Governor Patrick shook his fist at ACA critics saying, “The website glitches are inconvenient and annoying. They must be fixed and I am confident they will be. But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place.” Over the past year, healthcare stakeholders across the state, including the Massachusetts Association of Health Underwriters, consistently presented legitimate concerns about the rollout to the administration, and were dismissed as anti-ACA. This past Friday, Governor Patrick suggested officials now need to determine if the Connector’s $15,000,000 plus website is “salvageable” or if the state should “push the reset button.” How could the Governor change his tune in just over three months with so little public debate, discussion, or local television coverage?

But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place

All of this has left a bitter taste in the mouths of 124,000 of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. The Connector currently has a backlog of 54,000 individual applications, each requiring a minimum of 39 minutes of manual data entry to ensure that these individuals gain access to healthcare. As these residents struggle to see doctors and fill vital medical prescriptions, the Connector recently initiated a taxpayer funded advertising campaign aimed at already-insured small businesses. How is this utilization of resources acceptable?

Despite the strong critique in the MITRE report, the Connector continues to divide resources, focusing on an employer market that already has health insurance while thousands of Massachusetts residents are left frustrated with a malfunctioning website, long wait times, and unclear next steps. At this time, it’s irresponsible for the Connector to spend hard-earned taxpayer dollars promoting its snappy new jingle to small businesses. As we heard from Governor Patrick on October 30, “health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website. It’s a value statement. It’s about insuring people against a medical catastrophe. It’s about being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper by helping others helps themselves.” Sadly it’s also not about sales and marketing when so many folks are hurting and at risk.