ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley urged uninsured Maryland residents to beat the midnight Monday deadline for enrollment in Affordable Care Act-related plans, saying more people are having success with the troubled online health exchange.
The governor highlighted a health fair that is being held Saturday at the Baltimore Convention Center, where 33 navigators will be available to guide people through the process. O’Malley said there has been a significant upswing in enrollments in the last week, despite ongoing information technology problems.
“It is not a drive-through McDonald’s by any means,” O’Malley said. “We still experience difficulties, but … we’re actually moving a lot more people a lot better than we ever had, though big IT challenges still remain.”
O’Malley said increased demand on the website due to the looming deadline has slowed it down, but more people signed up for insurance plans in the last week than in the first 10 weeks after the website’s rocky debut.
“There are still serious problems with the site,” O’Malley said. “It has not worked as we were told by IBM and Curam that it would work, and so we’ve had to do a whole lot of manual workarounds, and there’s also a fundamental kind of design flaw in the visibility, if you will, of an application — being able to know exactly where it is in the process or if it’s stuck, where it’s stuck, and being able to get it out — things that we should have been able to know right away and with some much greater precision and in a more timely fashion, like how many, and how many of this and how many of that.”
The state’s health exchange board has adopted a plan to help people who have tried to enroll before the deadline at the end of the month but were unable to complete an application.
Consumers will be able to let the exchange know that they have started an application but have been unable to finish it. State residents who call by March 31 will get a call and special assistance for enrollment for coverage that begins May 1. All four insurance carriers offering health plans in the exchange are participating.
Maryland is one of 14 states that created its own health exchange. Maryland’s exchange crashed as soon as it opened on Oct. 1. The Maryland exchange reported Friday that 49,293 people have enrolled in private plans through March 22. The state initially hoped to have 150,000 enrolled in private plans for the first enrollment period.
O’Malley declined to say what the state plans to do address the ongoing website problems for the next enrollment period in November, but he said “it’s not working at a level that I would call acceptable for when November comes around.”
“Next week, we’ll probably have an update for you as to what our plans are when it comes to the next open enrollment period, which is in November,” O’Malley said.
The state is considering adopting technology developed by another state or partnering with the federal health care exchange. Del. Peter Hammen, who chairs the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said lawmakers have been talking about the possibility of adapting the Connecticut health care exchange for Maryland.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)