Maryland's ObamaCare exchange has been directing customers to a Seattle pottery store

Mary Katharine mentioned the other week that Maryland’s state-run ObamaCare exchange — which crashed the first day it was launched last fall and has been stuck in an interminable loop of fail ever since —   had been accidentally directing Maryland insurance-seekers in search of help to other states’ ObamaCare navigators. Apparently, however, that was hardly the least facepalm-worthy of the website’s proffered misguidance, via the Baltimore Sun:

Critics said Saturday that the latest problem to hit Maryland’s online health exchange — an incorrect help-line number that directed hundreds of callers to a Seattle-based pottery business — was another symptom of the poorly operating website.

“You can’t make this stuff up, and I guess if it wasn’t so serious, it could be funny,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican.

The website mistakenly listed a 1-800 number that sent some Marylanders attempting to pick a health insurance provider to Seattle Pottery Supply instead of Maryland’s call center. The number appears under the words “State Advantage” and “call a representative.” The correct number for help shows up multiple times on the site before the incorrect number appears.

A state spokeswoman said Saturday that she had no update on efforts to fix the problem. Maryland officials were unaware of the problem until contacted Friday by The Baltimore Sun.

Way to stay on top of things, guys. Maryland is hoping to have 150,000 residents signed up for insurance by the end of March, but so far, they report that they have fewer than 23,000 enrollees with no definitive end in sight to the website’s glitchiness. The state legislature has been organizing hearings to try and figure out exactly what went wrong with the website’s construction, but in the meantime, the O’Malley administration finally ruled out one Congressman’s proposal to temporarily switch over to the federal exchange while the state-run version gets it act together. The CEO of Carefirst sent off a quick letter to Gov. O’Malley during that deliberative process which perhaps aptly demonstrates why they decided against it, via WaPo:


As a follow on to our recent communication, I just want to say that, while I know your frustrations with Maryland’s efforts on the Exchange have been great, a move to the Federal Exchange at this time would present substantial new risks and costs. Indeed, it may go so further complicate an already complicated situation as to make any near term remedy virtually unattainable.

We are dealing directly with the Federal Exchange in Virginia and have extensive day to day experience with it. We find that there are many serious and persistent operating and technical issues that undermine effective enrollment. Missing functionality limits the ability to do basic things such as correct and maintain life event changes for people once they are enrolled. We are concerned about the confusion, poor service and anger this will produce.

All things considered, my strong advice would be that the State stay its course and fix as much as it can with its own Exchange during this current open enrollment period. … It also greatly facilitates our efforts to support you since we are very familiar with the work that is being done by the Maryland Exchange and with the processes and technology that underpin it (however flawed).

What a mess.