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Watchdog: Accountability

Andy Harris: Feds to review Maryland health exchange

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Maryland,Associated Press,Watchdog,Watchdog Blog,Health Care,Accountability,Health Care Exchanges,HHS

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services plans to investigate Maryland's troubled health care exchange, a congressman said Monday.

Rep. Andy Harris, the state's only Republican congressman, said he has confidence that the nonpartisan and independent inspector general will thoroughly investigate problems that continue to trouble the exchange. Harris had requested the investigation.

"Maryland officials ignored early warning signs and chose to waste and abuse federal taxpayer money by opening up what they knew was a flawed exchange to the public," Harris said in a statement.

Officials at the state and federal health agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Harris, who was an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 30 years, described the Maryland health exchange as having "one of the worst exchange roll outs in the country."

Maryland's online health exchange has been plagued by computer problems that have made it difficult for people to enroll in private health care plans since its debut Oct. 1. Although improvements have been made, computer problems remain.

Maryland is one of 14 states that have built their own health exchanges. So far, the state says 38,070 have enrolled in private health plans as of March 1.

Maryland officials have decided to stick with the exchange through the open enrollment period that ends March 31. The state is evaluating alternatives for the next enrollment period that begins in November. It is considering adopting technology developed by another state, joining a consortium of other states, partnering with the federal exchange or making major fixes to overhaul Maryland's existing system.

Last month, Maryland's health exchange board voted to fire the state's prime information technology contractor, Noridian Healthcare Solutions.

Problems with the exchange have been so rampant that lawmakers passed emergency legislation in January to create a backup plan for people who tried to enroll for coverage Jan. 1 but couldn't through no fault of their own.

Last week, the investigative arm of Congress agreed to look into problems with state health exchange websites. The U.S. Government Accountability Office accepted an initial request from a group of House Republicans seeking an audit on how $304 million in federal grants were spent on the Cover Oregon website, which has yet to enroll a single person online without special assistance.

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