Not My Choice: Massachusetts’ Failed Health Insurance Fiasco

The sooner the evil Republicans kill Obamacare, the better. And by “kill” I mean obliterate, smash to smithereens, crush the life out of, grind into dust. Do I make my self clear?

I’m one of those poor unfortunates who fall into the category the likes of Jonathan Gruber and various “lawmakers” call “there’s not enough of them to worry about”: I must buy my own health insurance, and I do not qualify for a subsidy. Actually, I think what lawmakers really call the category I fall into is “chumps who are too stupid to game the system.”

In Massachusetts, where I live, there is an additional insult heaped upon folks in my category. We are forced to deal with the state–even though we receive none of its largesse–through an arcane creation called “Commonwealth Choice.” Ostensibly a clearinghouse where people seeking individual insurance can look at, compare, and purchase plans, Commonwealth Choice is in reality a nightmarish netherworld of everything that gives government a bad name: poorly designed web pages, false promises, and dead links.

Then there are the nitwits who answer the phone. My first name consists of five letters, as does my last. Both names are common, and most people who have one or the other have no problem identifying themselves. Except, apparently, when they call “customer service” at Commonwealth Choice. The operator who “assisted” me informed me that I was “not in the system.” Since neither my first nor last name is “Shelley,” I could understand her confusion. What I had trouble understanding is where she got the idea that either was.

sentaor liz warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) takes a star turn at manning the Commonwealth Choice call center.

When we cleared up the issue of whether I in fact exist, I was able to ask my question: “The website will not allow my to register for online payments; can you help?” Answer: “We are having problems with the system. We are telling people to clear there* cookies and be patient. But really, you should send in your payment by mail.”


Artist’s recreation of Miss in the moments after her call to Commonwealth Choice.

Let’s review. Massachusetts has been up and running with Commonwealth Choice for over ten years. To date it has neither a functioning website, nor does it accept EFT’s from banks or credit unions. If I were the suspicious sort, I might think this is because opening all those check-stuffed envelopes and recording payments therein manually creates massive opportunities for patronage hiring.


Ad for the state of the art technology that powers Massachusetts Health Connector.


Some of the smartest people in the world live in Massachusetts. Before there was Silicon Valley there was Route 128, America’s Technology Highway. Ken Olsen, An Wang…the great pioneers of personal computing did their amazing work right here. Massachusetts is so proud of these favorite sons that it retains the systems and designs the two innovated, back in the 1970s.

Please note that one or more critical services through the Federal Data Services Hub is temporarily unavailable to state-based Marketplaces and we may not be able to complete your application at this time. If you start your application now, you may need to come back later to complete the application and plan selection process. We apologize for the inconvenience.
The first message on the Massachusetts Health Connector home page.


It comes down to this, I guess. If the government is going to tell me how I must spend my money, force me to launder that money through them, then couldn’t it at least make easy for me to hand it over? Nope. In Massachusetts, watching the mark squirm is half the fun.

*I just know this is how she would’ve spelled “their.”

10 thoughts on “Not My Choice: Massachusetts’ Failed Health Insurance Fiasco

  1. Will you PLEASE stop taking my name in vain?!?! Dear Lord, wasn’t it enough that I died at age thirty???

    Yours very truly,
    Percy Bysshe SHELLEY

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