Miller: Hearings into exchange to continue, blunders 'might be about incompetence'

The Baltimore Sun

Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the investigations into how the state bungled its $107 million health exchange would continue until lawmakers are satisfied.

“The public wants answers, and the buck stops here,” Miller said. 

He added: “This is not anything about corruption or malfeasance. It might be about incompetence, it might be about people not extending proper oversight.”

A panel of state lawmakers had planned to hold their second inquiry this week into the flubbed online insurance marketplace on Friday, recalling the state’s secretary to testify again and requesting every document that has been released about the glitch-ridden site.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, chair of the Finance Committee, said that the hearing had been postponed, and he did not offer a reason why. The state's health secretary, Joshua Sharfstein, had been scheduled to appear.

Miller said that Middleton will be getting daily briefings on progress to repair the exchange, which as of last week had enrolled less than 25,000 of the 150,000 people state officials hoped to get into private insurance plans. 

Sharfstein apologized when he appeared before the committee Tuesday, saying he was sorry to people who had trouble signing up for insurance through the exchange, which the state trumpeted as a national model before it crashed and failed within hours of being launched this fall.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who oversaw implementing the Affordable Care Act that called for the exchange, testified Tuesday about the state’s emergency bill to provide stop-gap insurance coverage for people stymied by the exchange. He is not scheduled to be grilled by lawmakers on Friday.

The emergency bill to let uninsured Marylanders rely on the state’s high-risk insurance program will get a vote on the senate floor Monday night.

The state estimates thousands of people tried to buy insurance through the exchange but were thwarted by its technical troubles. The high-risk option would be available to people who do not meet Tuesday evening’s deadline to sign up for retroactive insurance through private carriers. 

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