Cleaning Out the In Box 3: Profile of KY exchange head; original MA employer penalty dropped; Man Bites Dog in Oregon
I've been too busy with my day job (I do have one, you know...) to post much lately, but plenty of ACA-related news has piled up, so I'm clearing off my desk with some quick bits:
First in a series of profiles about KY women in charge of the state exchange:
Energy exudes from Carrie Banahan when she talks about her work with others to bring affordable health care to more than half a million Kentuckians.
“I worked all my life to see this happen, that we can provide affordable health insurance to people, and it has actually happened,” she said. “I am thrilled that we are actually helping people in Kentucky. It is the highlight of my career.”
Banahan is executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange, which the state has branded as Kynect, partly to avoid identification with the pejorative nickname Obamacare. She shares the credit for its success.
In a nutshell, MA's original "RomneyCare" mandate law included penalties for employers who didn't provide insurance for their employees. With the ACA basically mimicking this at the federal level (yet another reason Republicans, including Romney, have been insanely hypocritical in their attacks on "Obamacare"), there's no longer any need for the state-level version of the penalty:
A Massachusetts health reform law board is scheduled Thursday to vote for the second and final time to repeal regulations relating to a landmark state statute that required employers to either offer health care coverage to their employees or pay a fine.
That vote by the board of directors of the Massachusetts Health Connector, which regulates key provisions of the state's 2006 health reform law, will bring to a final end a provision in that law that required employers with at least 11 full-time employees to either offer coverage or pay an annual $295-per-employee fine.
Meanwhile, in what would seem to be an epic case of chutzpah, Oracle Corp., the tech company responsible for the state of Oregon's utterly useless ACA exchange website (to my knowledge, not a single person was ever able to actually enroll themselves in a QHP via the website itself, although the state has still managed to enroll an astonishing 450,000 people in either an exchange QHP or Medicaid via other, manual methods (82K QHPs, 240K in Medicaid via the exchange & another 128K in Medicaid via the state's "fast track" program)), has announced that they are suing the state.
On Friday, Oracle Corporation filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Oregon, alleging state officials are continuing to use the technology firm's software despite $23 million in unpaid bills,AP/Modern Healthcare reports (AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/9).
...In a 21-page complaint, Oracle said state officials privately sought its help to fix the website while taking part in a campaign of "constant public slander" against the company. "Oracle gave that help for many months, in spite of the public excoriation" in part because "Cover Oregon repeatedly promised to pay Oracle for its services," according to the complaint. Oracle noted that Cover Oregon never paid the company for those services.
On the surface, it would seem to be jaw-droppingly nervy of Oracle, which has already been paid $130 million for a completely useless website, to be the one doing the suing. I'm a bit hesitant to jump on the "Oracle Sux!" bandwagon, however, since I don't know the details of either the actual contract itself or how the project developed over time.
As a website developer myself, I've certainly had clients who didn't understand the technical details of what they were asking for, who tried to constantly change the scope of the project in the middle of the process, or who simply failed to provide information or content which had been clearly laid out during initial meetings or within the contract itself. Of course, that's at a much lower level than a massive project like the Cover Oregon website, but the principle is the same.
Even so, given how publicly embarrassing the entire incident has been for both the state government and for Oracle (which is, after all, one of the more higher public-profile members of the tech industry), perhaps it would be better at this point if both sides just called it a day and moved on.
The same article also notes that both Maryland and Massachusetts, the two states which decided to replace their own crappy exchange software with all-new software, seem to be doing well with their new platforms and things are looking very good for the 2015 open enrollment period, which starts on November 15.