President Obama doubtless plans for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to be the keystone of his legacy. That calls for an examination of Obamacare’s largest wholly-owned subsidiary. Covered California turns out to be something of a misnomer, but it’s definitely a success at spending money.
Covered California has shelled out $454 million, nearly half a billion dollars, on a computer system. Covered California bosses also spent tens of millions on grants to promote the program, in addition to an $80 million television, radio and Internet marketing campaign. The system spent $1.3 million on a promotional video featuring flabby exercise guru Richard Simmons cavorting with a contortionist.
Covered California also served as a lucrative landing spot for washed-up government officials such as former state finance director Ana Matosantos. She bagged a deal of $20,000 a month to advise the state exchange on “financial sustainability and budgeting issues, and evaluation analytics.”
What all this technology and spending actually achieved was well documented by the Center for Health Reporting (CHR), which operates from the Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. The CHR’s Emily Bazar found that the state health website, like its federal counterpart, was largely dysfunctional.
Those eager to sign up encountered waits of hours, days and weeks. Many requested that they not be contacted, but Covered California promptly gave their contact information to insurance agents, a blatant violation of privacy.