Connector: temporary Masshealth pricetag at $658 mil

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – Massachusetts spent a total of $658 million on providing temporary Medicaid coverage to residents after the Health Connector site failed about a year ago, an agency official told the News Service on Friday.

That total includes $138 million in fiscal 2014 and $520 million in fiscal 2015, and does not account for any federal reimbursement. MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, receives substantial funding from the federal government.

The number is “close to” the final tally of the program’s cost because even though it ended in February there can be a “claims lag,” Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts said.

The temporary Medicaid coverage was turned to as an emergency measure because of the failure of the state’s attempt to create a functioning health exchange website that was compliant with the Affordable Care Act in 2013.

The Patrick administration enrolled more than 300,000 applicants in temporary Medicaid coverage. A portion of those covered by temporary Medicaid could have potentially qualified for Medicaid.

The program of temporary Medicaid coverage ended at the end of February, and the Baker administration is now determining whether enrollees in Medicaid qualify for the safety-net health coverage.

Under the temporary Medicaid program, the state footed the bill for fee-for-service medical treatment.

The cost of fixing defects with the Health Connector website in advance of November’s open enrollment is $47.2 million, according to the Connector, and that is only a fraction of the costs stemming from the disastrous rollout.

On Thursday, Health Connector Executive Director Louis Gutierrez said the cost will be shared by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid office.

The total information technology cost for the website is now $281 million, according to Jason Lefferts.

Gutierrez on Thursday said one problem was that people recorded by the system as paid failed to be issued a renewal with their insurance carriers.

“That’s a big problem, right? And it’s that kind of thing we need to work through,” Gutierrez said.

Last October, former Gov. Deval Patrick said fixing the Affordable Care Act-compliant website cost $26 million, bringing the total 2011-to-2015 information-technology cost to $254 million – with the state’s share at $42 million. Lefferts said the actual costs came in under that estimate.

The cost is now about 60 percent higher than the initial $174 million estimated cost of building the site.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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