Delegate Tony McConkey's Official Blog

Legislature Moves To Rescue Victims Of The Maryland Health Exchange

victims-of-the-maryland-health-exchangeWith the continuing failings of Maryland Obamacare and its $200 million Maryland Health Exchange, the Maryland democrat leadership is trying to provide a stop gap fix with a temporary state insurance program to rescue victims of the Maryland Health Exchange. The rescue is meant to head off calls by several prominent democrats for the state to merely scrap its exchange and to rely on the national site, and to provide cover for the Governor and Lt Governor in their failure of leadership in the disastrous rollout of the Maryland Health Exchange.

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Legislature Moves Fast To Rescue Failed Health Site Registrants

By Bryan P. Sears, Daily Record

ANNAPOLIS — Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is vowing quick action on an emergency bill meant to help people who thought they had bought insurance through the state health insurance exchange but later found they were not covered.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told reporters Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in Annapolis, Md. that the Senate could take up an emergency bill as early as next week that creates a safety net for people who thought they signed up for insurance through a state website but later found out that the registration failed. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

The emergency bill is meant to offer a bridge. It was introduced Thursday in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

“I think we’ll have two separate hearings in the Senate and the House and then the Senate will move first on the bill,” Miller said in an interview. “I think by the end of next week or the first of the following week, we’ll have the bill on the [Senate] floor.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, in a separate interview, said his chamber is on a similar timeline and said there could be a joint hearing with the Senate. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 14.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown announced the emergency legislation last month.

Estimates vary on the number of people the bill is designed to help, from a couple of hundred to as many as 5,000. All attempted to register through the state’s struggling health insurance exchange website. The cost is estimated at between $5 million and $10 million, which will come from a fund assessed to hospitals in Maryland.

The bill would allow the state to move those people into the Maryland Health Insurance Program, a high-risk insurance pool that serves uninsured Marylanders.

Some Republican opponents of the state effort have called for a legislative investigation. And Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Lower Shore, emailed a statement criticizing the proposed legislation.

“The O’Malley-Brown administration’s ill-conceived emergency legislation merely shuffles people from the failing state-run Obamacare exchange into another state-run insurance program for a limited amount of time,” said Haddaway-Riccio, who is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Harford County Executive David Craig. “Trying to fix bureaucratic problems with more bureaucracy just creates more confusion and makes it more difficult for consumers.”

The bill requires that people provide evidence that they attempted to sign up for insurance. Haddaway-Riccio said it’s not clear how officials will deal with people who have no proof because they gave up because of delays and crashes.

She criticized Brown directly, saying that “if Governor O’Malley’s health care point man and lieutenant governor Anthony Brown had been on top of this, there would not be a need for so-called ‘emergency legislation.’”

If the bill is passed, the effective date of coverage for some would be retroactive to Jan. 1. For others it would depend on when people enrolled.

It’s not clear how long people will be allowed to enroll in the program. Nina Smith, an O’Malley spokeswoman, said that would depend on how quickly the state can resolve issues with its website.

Last week, the state announced it had registered about 18,000 people in private insurance plans through the site, slightly more than 10 percent of the 150,000 the state planned to register by March 31.

More than 134,000 people have enrolled through Medicaid. The state had hoped to sign up as many as 260,000 and now expects to exceed that number.

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