Back when healthcare.gov was first blowing up, we often heard that the only problems were with the states that had not built their own healthcare exchanges. The implication was that it was really the fault of Republican governors and Republican state legislatures that the website was crashing so badly.
But the states have been having troubles too! Consider Massachusetts. According to Politico:
Massachusetts’s experiment with health reform — led by Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 — has long been a White House talking point about what America could look like under Obamacare. President Barack Obama flew to Boston in October to reassure the nation that his own health law would turn out just fine, despite its disastrous rollout. Massachusetts built its exchange in 2007, with its own balky rollout, and the state now boasts the country’s lowest uninsurance rate.
That narrative is under threat. Massachusetts is struggling to rebuild its exchange, known as the Connector, to comply with the Affordable Care Act. New federal subsidy levels and broader Medicaid coverage mean that tens of thousands of people have to enroll or re-enroll but are hitting those glitches. That’s led to a blame game.
“Massachusetts showed the nation that near-universal coverage is doable, affordable and significantly helps the uninsured access needed care. We were the model for the ACA. Unfortunately, the Connector’s current performance plays into the opposition’s narrative that the ACA is unworkable, and government is ineffective,” said Jon Kingsdale, who led the exchange under both Romney and Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick from 2006-10. “I trust that the Connector’s dedicated staff and independent board of directors will explain what went wrong here and fix it.”
Peter Suderman at the Reason Hit & Run blog points out,
this further undercuts the popular notion that Obamacare is working in the states that weren’t opposed to its goals, and the related idea that if Republican governors had just agreed to build exchanges on their own. Yes, officials in Massachusetts asked for some exemptions from the law’s exchange requirements. But its political class was not broadly politically opposed to the Obamacare project, its goals, or its methods. The same goes for Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont which have also had significant troubles getting their health insurance exchanges to work smoothly.
I’d be the last person to defend Romneycare or any other government-crafted contrivance that interferes in the free market of sellers and buyers. But Suderman does point out that Romney’s original website did not attempt the real-time instant verification system that Obamacare promised. This supports one of my working theories of government action: apparent government successes always lead to obvious government failures. Even when government manages to launch a program that seems successful to a number of people, it inevitably leads politicians to build on that success, attempt to surpass it, and reach farther and further until they reach failure.
Statism can never be content. It always has something to prove and to acquire.