The shutdown could have bought 40 times over

High-end cost estimate of infrastructure: $600 million*. Estimated economic losses from 15 days of shutdown: $24 billion. That’s forty-fold more, and I’m being conservative.

The exchange rollout has been ugly, and with the inanity of government shutdown (finally!) wrapped up, it’ll be commanding more headlines. It should: the system appears to be having problems on the front end and back, creating issues for consumers and insurers alike. It’s totally unclear how many have enrolled through the federal exchanges, though some information is available for the state-based marketplaces. HHS has a pretty narrow window to correct course—unless they make some administrative tweak, people need to enroll in plans by mid-February to avoid the penalty.

But when furor over exchange glitches starts to fester in the media void that Ted Cruz left behind, remember that the last two weeks of  political histrionics—which achieved nothing of consequence in health policy land, despite being premised on an effort to defund Obamacare—racked up a price tag that makes the exchange infrastructure’s budget look like a pittance.

*Manjoo makes a good argument that the site shouldn’t have cost as much as it did (even with lower estimates around $360 million) and that government contracting and procurement practices might be the culprit. His piece is worth reading in full.

Adrianna (@onceuponA)

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