The Obama administration took a victory lap Tuesday for meeting its Obamacare sign-up goal of 7 million by the March 31 deadline. "This law has made our health care system a lot better — a lot better," President Obama said triumphantly.
Like so much of what this White House says, this must be taken with several tablespoons of salt. Many of those who "signed up" haven't actually paid anything yet, many are Medicaid enrollees and many were bumped off their old policies. McKinsey & Co. estimates that a mere 27 percent of those who enrolled were previously uninsured. It's hard to claim that this outcome is worth the nearly $1 billion spent just to create and promote Healthcare.gov.
The federal health insurance exchange has been an expensive disaster since Day One, and Healthcare.gov still can't process transactions without confusing applicants and crashing computers. This is the story in the 17 states that set up their own Obamacare exchanges. The board that oversees Maryland's health care experiment voted Tuesday to dump the state's disastrous $125 million Web portal, which crashed almost immediately on launch on Oct. 1, and hasn't worked since. The Maryland government proposes to spend another $50 million to start over and try again.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, the champion of Maryland's "flush tax," requiring everyone to pay $60 a year to flush their toilets, presided over the failed state Obamacare exchange that flushed one-eighth of a billion dollars down the drain. Mr. O'Malley is term-limited, and he's desperate to erase the disastrous exchange from his resume, to be forgotten before he challenges Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
One of Mr. O'Malley's prospective successors in Annapolis, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, had been put in charge of implementing health care reform in Maryland. The other Democratic gubernatorial contender, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, now says the lieutenant governor doesn't deserve promotion in light of the failure of Obamacare Jr. Indeed, in the corporate world, Mr. Brown's nonfeasance would have got him booted from the boardroom.
Maryland has little to show for its investment of $125 million. As of March 22, a few more than 49,000 residents had enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the exchange. That's only about one-third of the state's April 1 goal of 150,000 enrollments.
Meanwhile, the state's Medicaid rolls have ballooned. Some 96,000 men and women were automatically enrolled in the federal program for the poor when the state expanded its Medicaid program under Obamacare, and about 125,000 more have since joined them. This is a permanent and ongoing extra burden on taxpayers.
There's a lesson here for Virginia, where Terry McAuliffe, the new Democratic governor, has been holding the state budget hostage to coerce the General Assembly into expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. The Republicans in charge of the House of Delegates are right to resist.