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Senate panel to review thousands of health exchange documents

The Senate panel probing what went wrong with Maryland's bungled health exchange has decided to wait two weeks for another hearing while state lawyers plow through a mountain of records lawmakers want to review.

Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, chairman of the Finance Committee, said it would be at least two weeks before briefings on the online insurance marketplace resume, and he rejected a request from Republicans for a special committee with subpoena powers. 

 “I think there’s been a lot of errors in human judgment,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are looking at this as a political opportunity.”

Middleton, a Charles County Democrat, said the Senate has requested results of records requests by media outlets, as well as complete versions of audits that warned of the website's problems long before it launched Oct. 1.

Maryland leaders heralded their exchange as an effort to build a model for other states to implement the Affordable Care Act, but Maryland's site crashed as soon as it went live.  While state officials have resolved some major glitches, lingering technical problems continue to stymied thousands of Marylanders who tried to get health care insurance. 

Middleton said the Attorney General’s Office would need about two weeks review  more than 1,000 pages of documents to screen out private or proprietary information.

Friday’s briefing was canceled, he said, because “it doesn’t make sense to have briefing after briefing after briefing.” He added he hasn’t seen  “anything of a criminal nature.”

Meanwhile, Middleton cast doubt on the prospects for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed stopgap measure to make retroactive coverage in a state program available to those who couldn’t complete enrollment on the exchange. 

The emergency bill, which has been delayed until at least Monday, was introduced before the state persuaded the four insurance carriers on the exchange to offer retroactive private policies effective Jan. 1.  People who tried to enroll through the exchange but got stuck can apply for retroactive coverage before Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

“I hope we don’t need that bill – that we get everybody in those four private carriers,” he said. The administration bill providing coverage through the Maryland Health Insurance Plan is “just a backup measure.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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