Maryland exchange still seeing problems

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Maryland’s health insurance exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act continues to struggle despite recent claims from Gov. Martin O’Malley that it is working for most customers.

Two days after O’Malley claimed the site was fucntional, it suffered a server crash and an overwhelmed call center, causing the governor to announce he will bring in another contractor to improve the still-struggling site.

“It’s crashing all over the place,” said Peter Beilenson, who has served in local health departments and now runs the insurance co-op Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc. He told the Baltimore Sun after several failed attempts to enroll people through the exchange: “It’s stopping at various parts. Bottom line, no, not functional.”

O’Malley pledged a number of new initiatives Monday after announcing Saturday night nine major issues with the exchange had been fixed and that the site was “functional for most citizens.”

As part of the announcement, he and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the state hired Columbia-based Optum/QSSI, an information technology company that helped fix the federal exchange. And they said CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Maryland’s largest insurer, had agreed to extend the deadline to enroll for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

State officials have brought in new leadership for the exchange, asking Isabel FitzGerald, secretary of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, to lead the IT effort.

O’Malley blamed some continued glitches on problems with a federal hub over the weekend, though he added most people were not affected. The state site must interface with multiple parties, including insurers and the federal government.

One option bandied about is having Maryland move to the federal exchange. The state was one of more than a dozen around the country to build its own exchange, but these problems have raised concerns it will not be a longtime viable solution.

“We’re for whatever works,” O’Malley said.

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Isabel FitzGerald, Martin O'Malley, Maryland, States
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