- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A pair of Senate Republicans said Tuesday they are upset that taxpayer dollars were spent on balky Obamacare websites run by the states.

Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa also suggested that some of the portals might not be operational by the time enrollment starts up again in the fall.

Officials at many of the 15 state-run exchanges are giving consumers extra time to sign up for health coverage under President Obama’s overhaul past the March 31 deadline, much as the federal government has for the three dozen states that use HealthCare.gov.

The leeway was extended in part because consumers encountered technical glitches while trying to sign up during the six-month enrollment period that began in October.

But the GOP senators said the extension does not get to the root of their worries.

“This decision does not address the larger problem that many of the state exchanges are still not operational almost half a year after their initial launch date … While the federal exchange has resolved many of its issues, some states are still struggling to make their exchanges functional,” they wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The online markets costs hundreds of millions of dollars, they noted. Oregon, for instance, received $304 million in grants from HHS, only to see their web portal collapse.

“Despite all of the money spent on Oregon’s exchange, a person cannot even enroll in a plan online,” they wrote. “Instead, individuals must wait for exchange workers to review their applications and send them information on available insurance plans by mail.”

In their letter, the senators demand to know how much money was spent on the state exchanges and whether the federal government checked up on the states and tried to resolve their problems.

Their questions follow a GOP-led House hearing last week that shed light on balky state Obamacare websites, a sign that Republicans will bore into the health exchanges’ problems even though enrollment is officially over until mid-November.