Cumberland Times-News

January 6, 2014

A bad start

Md. lags in signup rate for health care plan

Cumberland Times-News

— Unless Gov. Martin O’Malley can get the Maryland General Assembly to give him a quick fix for the state’s shaky health exchange signup system the whole process should be handed over to the federal exchange.

Maryland’s signup rate is lagging other states so far. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md. Sixth) — who favors using the federal exchange — said of the 2.1 million people signed up nationwide, only 18,257 are Maryland residents.

"We have fallen quite far behind the national average and we're running out of time," Delaney said in a letter to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland’s state health secretary. Delaney said he has heard from frustrated and concerned residents throughout his district, which stretches from Garrett County to Montgomery County.

O’Malley hasn’t ruled out handing the process over to the federal exchange. But he said he plans to seek emergency legislation when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday that will provide retroactive coverage to Marylanders who have not been able to sign up because of technical problems. State officials are not sure how many people have had a signup problem, but said it could be as many as 5,000.

"Whatever works best to serve the greatest numbers of people most quickly is what we will do," O'Malley, a Democrat, said at a Friday briefing with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

Like the federal website, the Maryland website has had problems ever since it began operation last Oct. 1.

While the O'Malley administration has said the state website has seen improvements in recent weeks, problems have continued. The state has had many more enrollments through Medicaid, which boosts the number of people enrolled under the Affordable Care Act in Maryland to 152,892, the O'Malley administration says. The state hopes to enroll a total of 260,000 people by March 31.

Whatever the case, Marylanders who are trying to enroll in the new health care plan should not be denied coverage because of a faulty website. If the state site cannot handle the workload, then use the federal site. Either way, make sure all Marylanders who have experienced problems are given retroactive coverage.