Md. Health Insurance Exchange Site Struggling

On the eve of another crucial deadline, Maryland’s new health insurance exchange is under increasing scrutiny and pressure.

Members of a U.S. House Committee are asking for a federal investigation into glitches that continue to plague the exchange website and are considering seeking a refund of some of the tens of millions of federal tax dollars spent to build the Maryland Health Connection program.

Maryland Health Connection, one of the state-run health insurance operations created after passage of health care reform, has been hampered by website malfunctions, limiting the ability of residents to enroll in the program.

The state agency overseeing the exchange has set a Tuesday deadline for enrollment for people seeking health insurance coverage beginning March 1

Agency records show the site continues to suffer severe glitches, even as the deadline approaches. So much so, state officials are considering using part of the federal health exchange system to complete enrollments later this year.

A spokesman for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), chairman of the US House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, said Kingston is seeking a federal investigation into whether taxpayers should recoup federal dollars spent to build the Maryland website.

In his letter formally requesting a review by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kingston also asks for an investigation into whether Maryland used “contractors with no expertise.”

In a separate statement, the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said “Maryland’s implementation remains a failure.”

The former head of the Maryland Health Connection Rebecca Pearce resigned her post during an emergency meeting of the agency’s board Dec. 6.

But emails obtained by the News4 I-Team show Pearce continued to receive her salary until Feb. 1.

Pearce, the News4 I-Team has learned, was placed on paid administrative leave for six weeks, and continued collecting paychecks. Her starting salary was set at $175,000 in 2011. Efforts to contact Pearce were unsuccessful.

In the emails obtained by the News4 I-Team, a state official said Pearce should remain on administrative leave to ensure a “smooth transition” for the exchange.

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