Mass. Seeks $80M More From Feds For Health Website

Massachusetts will ask the federal government for another $80 million to build a new health insurance shopping website tied to the Affordable Care Act.

Massachusetts received $174 million for multi-state planning and a website that never worked.
The state has about $65 million left, but says it will need the additional money to build a new site.

So the total cost of the site — which is expected to be ready for the next open enrollment period that begins Nov. 15 — will be roughly $254 million. If the federal government agrees to the additional expense, it would end up spending about $224 million for the insurance exchange. The balance, about $30 million, would come out of the state’s capital budget.*

Project directors from hCentive, the company building out the new site, walked the Health Connector board through a demo Thursday morning. There were a few glitches, but a sample user was able to compare plans and enroll. The site has not been tested yet with the hundreds of users who are expected to log in when the next open enrollment period begins on Nov. 15.

As work continues on the website, the number of residents seeking free or subsidized coverage has grown to 267,000. It’s not clear whether these people have been uninsured for some time, recently lost coverage or have been dropped by their employers in the last year or so.

In all, between 400,000 and 450,000 Massachusetts residents who either bought or tried to sign up for coverage through the Connector will need to re-enroll for coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015. The state expects to spend between $15 and $19 million on advertising, mailing and one-to-one outreach to remind residents that they must re-enroll, and to help them review insurance options.

That total includes almost $2 million that will go to the advocacy group Health Care for All. Staff aim to knock on 200,000 doors of residents who are, have been or might be, eligible for free or subsidized coverage.

Overview from the Health Connector's briefing on Thursday
Overview from the Health Connector's briefing on Thursday

*Correction: An earlier version of this story, based on a conversation with state officials, incorrectly reported how the total cost of building the state's health insurance website would be split between the federal and state governments.


This article was originally published on August 14, 2014.

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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