Editorial: Health Exchange website disaster can’t be fixed

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (SSHIX), created to conform to the dictates of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is an unmitigated disaster.

Nevada Health Link crashes and serves up error messages. People’s questions sit in a queue unanswered. People can’t confirm that insurance policies they’ve signed up for are activated. A fraction of the number of people needed to make the exchange’s participating insurers actuarially sound have been able to sign up.

The vendor for the system, Xerox, has missed a number of deadlines while building the website. It has not completed the part of the system in which premium invoices are created and enrollment information is forwarded to insurers.

One SSHIX board member called Nevada Health Link’s failures “catastrophic” and called for creation of a “disaster recovery plan.”

Frankly, it is time to punt.

Instead the SSHIX board has decided to lend a few state computer tech employees, who apparently have nothing else to do, to help out vendor Xerox, which bid $72 million for the job of creating the system. The board also may hire a consulting firm to look over Xerox’s less-than-broad shoulders. Will that consulting fee be deducted from Xerox’s contract fee?

The head of the failed exchange has resigned and will leave in mid-March — a grace the executives at Xerox have failed to exhibit.

In fact, during a board meeting this past week Xerox officials insulted everyone’s intelligence and stated it was raising its sign-up goal by March 31 from 118,000 enrollees to 150,000. So far only 19,000 have actually enrolled. That mendaciousness alone should have been grounds to bounce Xerox and dump the whole thing onto the equally broken federal exchange.

Over a four-day period in the latter part of February the exchange signed up just 178 people. At that rate only 1,400 could be expected to sign up during the entire month of March, which is the deadline for qualifying for tax subsidies under ObamaCare.

It’s not like the exchange is doing anyone great favors by providing tax subsidies for overpriced health insurance. As reported earlier, rural Nevadans are especially on the short end of the ObamaCare stick, being charged as much as 70 percent more than those living in urban areas of the state.

Kaiser Health News recently reported that rural Nevadans have the third highest exchange rates in the country.

A 40-year-old living in Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Elko, Mineral, Pershing, White Pine and Churchill counties who purchases the cheapest Silver plan would pay $456 a month in premiums — only slightly less than those living in rural Colorado and southwest Georgia.

Not that Nevada is alone in this dilemma. Maryland fired the contractor that built its exchange and that state’s executive director, like Nevada’s, resigned. Oregon’s exchange has yet to sign up a single enrollee. But that is no consolation.

The Nevada exchange board should set March 31 as the last day for attempting to sign up for health insurance on the exchange and then refer everyone thereafter to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, that already disservices 36 states. Let the whole thing collapse under its own unsustainable weight.

ObamaCare is a Rube Goldberg contraption with too many moving parts that keep flying off in every direction. — TM

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