O’Malley says Md. closer to fixing remaining major problems with health exchange


Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Brian Witte/AP)
December 12, 2013

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) acknowledged Thursday that Maryland’s online health insurance exchange had “a very rocky launch” but provided a largely positive prognosis for fixing the remaining glitches and boosting enrollment in coming months.

“The bottom line is more people are getting though the site from end to end,” O’Malley told reporters during an afternoon briefing.

O’Malley said he thinks the state is still on track to meet a goal he set two weeks ago to fix most technological problems with the Web site by the middle of this month. Of the nine major glitches that were identified, three remain to be addressed, he said. Two of those involve computer screens freezing at points in the application process.

“We’ve made progress diagnosing that,” O’Malley said. “We know what it is.”

As of Dec. 7, about 5,200 people had chosen to enroll in private plans through the state-run health exchange, according to state officials. More than 16,000 other people had used the site to sign up for Medicaid coverage, they said.

O’Malley said he remains committed to a goal of signing up 260,000 people by the end of March — 150,000 of those through private plans offered on the Web site.

While those goals remain a long way off, O’Malley said the state had not begun in earnest a planned marketing campaign that should significantly boost enrollment. He said he wants to wait until the problems with computer screens freezing are worked out.

O’Malley’s assessment was markedly more upbeat than the one offered just two days ago by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year and has been hammered by his political opponents for the exchange’s failings.

Brown hesitated to embrace O’Malley’s mid-December deadline for fixing most glitches during a news conference he held on Tuesday, when O’Malley was returning from a trade mission to Brazil and El Salvador.

Brown, who joined O’Malley at Thursday’s briefing, has asserted a leadership role in the administration on implementing the federal health-care law. Maryland is among the states that chose to run their own online marketplace rather than use the one produced by the federal government.

O’Malley acknowledged Thursday that state leaders had considered a two-month delay in the Oct. 1 launch date for the exchange.

“We talked about it briefly, and ultimately the decision was made by me to move ahead,” O’Malley said. He said he thinks that was the right decision.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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