Annapolis: Maryland State House

The Maryland State House in Annapolis (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / January 5, 2011)

State lawmakers may have abandoned hearings into what went wrong with the glitch-ridden health exchange, but they're now considering regular briefings to make sure the state is fixing it. 

Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton said Wednesday the tentative plan is to resume briefings about how the exchange officials are repairing the site, how much it has cost, and future plans on whether to abandon it entirely.

"I'm looking for progress," said Middleton, the Senate Finance chariman, in an interview. He said he also wants as answers to "all those important questions."

Middleton stressed that "if and when it happens," Maryland's health secretary Joshua Sharfstein would be asked to explain "where they are and where they're going."

"In the event they can't get it up and running, what is their next step?" said Middleton, a Charles County Democrat. He and Del. Pete A. Hammen, chairman of the House Government Operations Committee and a Baltimore City Democrat, plan to meet later Wednesday to decide whether to call such a joint hearing on Monday. 

Last week, the pair said they would turn over thousands of records about the botched exchange to state auditors in lieu of continued public hearings about why the online insurance marketplace failed.

That decision was criticized by political foes of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a leading candidate in the Democratic race for governor and the administration's point-person on overseeing the exchange. The audit reports are unlikely to be ready until after the June 24 primary election.

The Maryland Health Connection website's rollout has been beset by technical troubles since it launched Oct. 1, a problem the administration blamed in part on feuding contractors and poor communication about the exchange's problems. The state has exceeded its goal in signing up people for Medicaid, enrollment in private insurance plans has lagged far behind state projections.