HealthCare.gov alone has cost federal taxpayers $2.1 billion so far, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis — and the feds still aren’t finished building it.
The Obama administration’s most recent estimate on spending related to HealthCare.gov was just $834 million through February 2014. Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia Burwell projected in May that through fiscal year 2015, additional costs would bring HealthCare.gov’s grand total to just above $1 billion.
“The way in which Obamacare has been rolled out has been very messy,” Peter Gosselin, the study author, told Bloomberg News. “One of the reasons it has been implemented in the way it has been, financially, is precisely to deny opponents of the law a clear target.”
Federal officials intentionally spread out HealthCare.gov spending across “dozens of contracts,” according to the report, in a concerted effort to prevent transparency on the health-care website’s true cost.
The bungled process of building HealthCare.gov was characterized by infighting between federal agencies and constant misdirection to federal contractors, according to many emails obtained by Congress.
And despite the massive cost, HealthCare.gov remains woefully incomplete. The back-end operations of the website are reportedly still not finished and the GAO reported this month that HealthCare.gov continues to lack basic security measures.
“Expenditures related to the Affordable Care Act are publicly available and widely known,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Aaron Albright told Bloomberg. “CMS takes its responsibility for spending taxpayer dollars seriously.”
The nonpartisan General Accountability Office took aim at CMS this week for failing to keep track of $3.7 billion so far this year, including spending on Obamacare. The agency failed to document and verify money spent on advertising and public relations efforts, according to the GAO report.
“CMS’s processes are inconsistent with certain federal accounting and internal control standards,” the report concluded.
And that’s just HealthCare.gov. The Obama administration also splashed out hundreds of millions on the 14 states and Washington, D.C. that built their own Obamacare exchanges (or at least attempted to). CMS oversees and approves spending for the state marketplaces as well as HealthCare.gov.
Nevada and Oregon are joining HealthCare.gov permanently beginning in November, after spending millions on failed websites. Massachusetts and Maryland also took advantage of millions in federal grants for sites they gave up on — both states are debuting their second tries at Obamacare exchanges in the fall.
While states are rushing to get their own exchanges ready in time (much like last year), the administration still doesn’t have HealthCare.gov ready either. Andy Slavitt, CMS’s new number two, has already warned the public that the second open enrollment period will again be “bumpy.”