The Post’s View

How did Maryland’s health site malfunction?

IF PEOPLE’S health weren’t on the line, it would be darkly funny: For weeks, uninsured Marylanders trying to get coverage through the state’s health exchange have slogged through online forms and technical glitches, only for the system to freeze just before they hit the “enroll” button. The Web site is supposed to facilitate the enrollment of 150,000 Marylanders in private health insurance. As of the middle of the month, it had signed up only 7,435 — and that is after notching its highest-volume days since its Oct. 1 launch.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), whom Mr. O’Malley tapped to be the point man on the state’s health-care rollout, say that the site has dramatically improved over the past several days, despite a server failure last week. But the site still needs work — and Mr. Brown still needs to explain how he let this happen.

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Things have been so bad that figures such as Rep. John K. Delaney (D-Md.) argue that Maryland should consider moving its enrollment systems to HealthCare.gov, the federal Web site that also failed after its Oct. 1 launch. HealthCare.gov is working better now, the argument goes, so Marylanders should have at least the access that most other Americans do.

All options should be on the table, but switching to the federal site probably isn’t advisable. Mr. O’Malley’s claim that the Maryland site is better, though not perfect, seems to be bearing out. Enrollments are increasing. Changing systems in midstream would bring with it large technical challenges; for one thing, insurance companies would have to adjust their systems to interface with that of the feds while they’re trying to process enrollments on deadline.

What is necessary is more progress. The site still seems to have formidable problems. People who created accounts before the latest overhaul have struggled to log back in. The governor says the state will contact people who might have gotten stuck on the site. Good. The repairmen must also ensure that enrollment information the site sends along to insurers — in those so-called 834 files — is coming over accurately. Otherwise, people who think they’re enrolled might not have the insurance they thought they did, or not at the price they expected.

Also needed is a thorough accounting of how the state’s site ended up failing. A recent staff shakeup suggests that process has begun, but it needs to be transparent. Mr. O’Malley approved opening the broken site on Oct. 1. Mr. Brown was supposed to be leading the rollout of health-care reform all along. By their own admission, neither knew that the state’s systems had massive problems. They should investigate, and then report, what went wrong and why.

 
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