“It’s going to be smoother in places like Maryland where governors are working to implement it rather than fight it. (Applause.)” — President Barack Obama, Sept. 26, 2013
As legislators grilled Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Tuesday over the dismal debut Maryland’s health insurance exchange, the O’Malley administration said it will not switch to the federal web site.
Rejecting calls to shut down the state’s bug-ridden web site, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office issued a statement saying the state would keep it running while working to improve it at least for the next 2 1/2 months. The exchange was created to implement the federal Affordable Care Act in Maryland.
“The governor and lieutenant governor have decided that during the remaining months of open enrollment, the risks associated with a transition to the federal site would outweigh the benefits,” the statement said.
Open enrollment for insurance under the health care law ends March 31.
To his credit, at least the health secretary ponies up an apology. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was supposed to be overseeing the thing, has a political career to think about, you see, so not even an apology from him:
“This is all malpractice,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley of Frederick County. “Because the people of Maryland expected something. They didn’t get it.”
Under pressure from Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, Brown declined to apologize for the failed launch. Brown, a Democratic candidate for governor and the administration’s point man on implementation of the program popularly known as Obamacare, said the people he talks to want progress on insuring more Marylanders, not apologies.
“An apology would amount to very little for those Marylanders who are struggling,” he told Kittleman.
When he followed Brown to the witness table, Sharfstein showed no such hesitancy.
“I apologize to the many Marylanders who have struggled with the website and the call center, and I regret the anxiety experienced by individuals and families who are seeking health insurance and who have been frustrated in the efforts to obtain it,” Sharfstein said.
“I really wish the lieutenant governor had said the same thing,” Kittleman said later.
Just as a reminder, Maryland was supposed to be among the most well-prepared states in the nation for Obamacare. They were to be a model of success.
Oregon, once heralded as an early Obamacare success story, is considering a switch to the federal exchange next year amid sustained problems with its state-run program.
The state’s exchange, Cover Oregon, still cannot process an entire enrollment online — a problem that is not expected to be repaired until after the 2014 enrollment period ends in March.
That has state officials weighing several options including scrapping its own enrollment system and moving to HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment portal which is working better now after its own disastrous start. Switching to the federal site could be considered a significant political defeat for the state and Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who strongly embraced the president’s health care law and is seeking reelection this year.
“As much as we don’t want to walk away from a big IT project, we have to consider it,” Kitzhaber health policy adviser Sean Kolmer told POLITICO. “It’s all about enrollment.”
For the first time since the Affordable Care Act was launched, Colorado has reached its low-end target on the number of new people who have purchased health plans under the state exchange, according to figures released Monday.
More than 50,000 Coloradans had bought health plans through December, placing the state fifth in the country for the number of people enrolled per capita, according to state-by-state data released Monday by the White House and the state health exchange.
Among the 50,125 people who purchased a marketplace plan in Colorado through Dec. 28, women outnumbered men 53 percent to 47 percent. The number doesn’t include the 86,432 new Coloradans who have enrolled in Medicaid under the state Affordable Care Act expansion.
Most troubling to Republicans and White House officials alike, however, is that only 22 percent of those who purchased individual plans were between the ages of 18 and 34. Those buyers are crucial to keeping the plans affordable because younger people are viewed by insurance companies as cheaper to cover.
There’s a challenge every day that comes up with the Affordable Care Act, because we’ve never done it before. We’re kind of creating it. One of the things that we used to say is that we’re flying this airplane while we build it.
The fact that any of these were considered “early success stories” is a testament to how much nonsense the press will believe when it wants to believe a program will work.