ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker on Tuesday renewed a call for an investigation into the state's defective health care exchange with a focus on the procurement process of the exchange's board, which has approved multimillion dollar contracts.
Del. Ron George, a Republican running in the GOP primary for governor, also called attention to political contributions that a winning bidder made before receiving a major state contract. George cited a $36.5 million contract for work on the state's customer service call center approved last year for Maximus Inc., of Reston, Va. In a statement calling for an investigation, George pointed to more than $325,000 in contributions the company made to the Democratic Governors Association when Gov. Martin O'Malley was chairman.
"We need a special counsel with the authority to investigate the procurement practices of the Health Exchange Board," George, of Anne Arundel County, said in a statement.
When asked for comment Tuesday in a brief interview with The Associated Press, O'Malley said: "I have no comment on election-year politics."
The board approved the contract in a competitive bidding process that included 10 other companies. Procurement rules for the exchange differ from other state agencies, because state contracts can be approved by the exchange board, instead of through the Board of Public Works, which is comprised of O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
Health exchange board members were appointed by the governor.
In addition to Maryland, Maximus also has contracts to support state health insurance marketplaces in other states, including Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Hawaii.
Ongoing problems with Maryland's health exchange have turned into a political fireball in Annapolis during an election year in which all 188 seats in the General Assembly will be decided in November. Maryland voters also will be choosing a new governor because O'Malley is term limited.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running in the Democratic primary, has been heavily criticized by Democratic primary opponents and Republicans for the exchange's flawed rollout, after he took the role of leading the implementation of health care reform in Maryland.
Maryland is one of 14 states that chose to run its own health care exchange.
Last week, a panel of House and Senate lawmakers was formed to provide oversight on fixing the exchange website. At the panel's first meeting on Monday, Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, also renewed a call for an investigation into what went wrong. Officials working on health exchange glitches told the panel that some significant problems are not on track to be corrected by the March 31 deadline for open enrollment. They also said officials are exploring other options for the second enrollment period starting in November. Those options could include switching to the federal health care exchange or adopting technology developed by other states.