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Gov. O’Malley Optimistic About State’s Health Care Progress

Governor says more than 5,000 Maryland residents have signed up for health insurance through the state health exchange.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley talks about problems and fixes in the state's health care enrollment website. Video and photo by Lauren Loricchio, Capital News Service
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley talks about problems and fixes in the state's health care enrollment website. Video and photo by Lauren Loricchio, Capital News Service

By Colleen Wilson, Capital News Service

Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday was the latest in a recent string of Maryland officials who have addressed the lagging performance of the state’s health care exchange implementation.

Maryland is seeing small, but steady increases in health care enrollments since the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect Oct. 1 – despite technology and department hiccups along the way.

O’Malley outlined nine problems with the website, six of which, he said, have been fixed. The primary problem still affecting the Maryland Health Connection site, which is the state’s marketplace for health insurance, is screen-freezing, he said at the press conference.

“We’ve made progress diagnosing that,” O’Malley said, explaining that the problem was two-fold: glitching Internet browsers and “enroll” button malfunctions.

O’Malley said more than 5,000 people have signed up for private insurance plans through the state health exchange. The private insurance carriers have increased enrollees by more than 1,500 since a Dec. 6 report from the exchange.

Despite the glitches, the governor emphasized that his administration still plans to meet its long-standing goals of enrolling 150,000 in private plans and 110,000 in Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families that is taking the place of Maryland’s Primary Adult Coverage program.

“So bottom line: We’ve made progress by degrees,” O’Malley said. “This is not like ordering a book on Amazon. Each person that applies is unique in terms of the family, the number of people in their family, their income levels … the final result is when we click on and elect a plan.”

Also in attendance at the press conference was Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was charged with overseeing the health care rollout, and Carolyn Quattrocki, the executive director of health care reform in the O’Malley administration. Brown, who is running for governor, held a press conference Dec. 10 after getting heat from gubernatorial opponent Attorney General Doug Gansler about the series of setbacks.

Quattrocki also recently took on the responsibility of interim executive director of Maryland Health Connection after Rebecca Pearce stepped down from the position Dec. 6. The day before Pearce’s resignation, she and Quattrocki answered questions from state delegates about the health care website and its progress going forward.

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