New 'oversight' panel announced for health exchange

State lawmakers announced Thursday a new, bi-partisan panel of lawmakers to oversee fixes to the glitch-ridden health exchange.

The ten-member committee will meet for the first time Monday and will discuss how to help people stuck without insurance get through the exchange. The online insurance marketplace has struggled with technical problems and its call center has been overwhelmed with residents unable to buy policies through the website.

The announcement Thursday follows a week of uncertainty about whether lawmakers would continue to probe what went wrong with the multi-million dollar exchange that has never worked properly. When some key state lawmakers proposed turning over the inquiry to auditors last week, critics accused them of trying to protect the political future of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was the administration's point-person on the exchange and is running for governor.

The "Oversight Group" announced Thursday will examine contractors, their accountability, and how much the exchange has cost, said Del. Peter A. Hammen, a Baltimore City Democrat and co-chair of the panel. It will also question whether the state should abandon the exchange or rebuild it after open enrollment ends March. 31. The group, which will also be led by Democrat Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton of Charles County, will get briefings on progress every two to three weeks.

Hammen said in an interview that because of the prolonged problems with the exchange, he doubts the state will be able to meet its goal to enroll 150,000 people in private plans.

Brown released a statement that said he welcomed the oversight panel. "Marylanders deserve accountability and there should be a comprehensive and meaningful review of the challenges facing the exchange," the statement read.

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