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Covered California Privatizes Email Stonewalling

Wednesday July 9th, 2014   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 7:16am PDT   •  

CoveredCalifornia_200IRS bosses claim to have lost two years of emails with direct bearing on the targeting scandal. Federal and state government agencies could respond to these mysterious losses by expanding efforts to preserve all public records. But as Christopher Cadelago explains in the Sacramento Bee, Covered California is taking a different approach.

California’s health insurance exchange, a wholly owned subsidiary of Obamacare, “does not provide official email addresses to members of its governing board.” When the Consumer Watchdog group sought public records, they were “told that because board members do not have email accounts with Covered California, their communications are private.” A government attorney told Consumer Watchdog, “We have no legal obligation to search private emails for records that are not within the definition of public records under the California Public Records Act.” Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court told Cadelago that the state health agency wants “to keep their communications from public scrutiny.” That is not exactly a model of transparency, but Covered California is not exactly a model of accountability or efficiency.

Like its federal counterpart, the website has been dysfunctional and insecure. Covered California paid Accenture $359 million to set up a “consumer-friendly” web portal that didn’t turn out that way. IT people took hours, days or weeks to resolve issues. Covered California managed to waste $1.3 million on an absurd promotional video featuring Richard Simmons. The state health exchange also serves as a lucrative landing spot for washed-up government officials such as former state finance director Ana Matosantos, California’s former director of finance, who bagged a deal of $20,000 a month to advise the state exchange on “financial sustainability and budgeting issues, and evaluation analytics.”

All that and more has happened in public. Other problems doubtless exist behind the scenes. Journalists and groups such as Consumer Watchdog want to investigate, but the exchange won’t release records. As long as state attorneys can stonewall with the private email ruse, Covered California will remain just that. For their part, Californians will remain less informed and less able to evaluate the health exchange their tax dollars support.

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July 2014