Maryland gears up for end of health care enrollment
|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
As a flurry of consumers signed up for health insurance Saturday during an enrollment fair, Gov.
The exchange board has not made a final decision, but O'Malley said the "Deloitte platform" used in
In recent days, those who had trouble signing up online and those who procrastinated have packed the offices of advocacy groups charged with helping people through the enrollment process and have flooded the state's call center lines to meet a
O'Malley said extensive work-arounds have enabled the state to surpass its "ambitious goal" to sign up 260,000 people. Total enrollment reached 269,336 as of Tuesday.
But a key segment of that overall goal -- signing up Marylanders for private plans -- might remain out of reach. As of
Experts say that most states with glitch-free websites have better enrollment numbers than
"It's been highly detrimental," said
"When you go and you get stuck or you have a long wait, you get pretty tired of that," said
In an analysis for the
The Obama administration said last week that more than 6 million people had bought health insurance on federal and state exchanges, meeting a goal for the system to be sustainable. The federal government had revised its initial goal of 7 million down to 6 million.
Before the launch of its health exchange,
Now, the end of the open enrollment period raises questions about the future of the
O'Malley said Saturday that a decision is necessary soon because there is little time before the next open enrollment, which begins in November for private plans. Those interested in
In contrast with
"There have been a couple of models that have worked," O'Malley said. "Our biggest mistake was going with
O'Malley said the constant triage on the website and extra staff in the call centers has helped in
And while O'Malley blamed the contractors and said he expects that the state and federal governments would seek redress, some said there are still unanswered questions.
"We owe it to the taxpayers to see what went right and what went wrong," said Szeliga, a Republican whose district includes parts of
Meanwhile, Marylanders who attempted to buy insurance and faced glitches on the state health exchange will get a reprieve until mid-April if they call a hot line before the deadline. Everyone else will have to wait for the fall enrollment period.
"Those numbers exceeded the goal," he said, "and when open enrollment closes we will continue our work in stabilizing our system, our platform, so we are in the very best position come
It could be several weeks before
The spotlight remains on the goal for private insurance plans. For months, the state had touted a goal of enrolling close to 150,000 in private plans but changed that to 70,000 in February, saying the initial goal was inaccurate. It blamed a mistake by the
Some Marylanders have also chosen to enroll directly through private insurers instead of dealing with the troubled exchange. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield said that enrollment increased significantly in March and that the number of individuals who had enrolled for coverage effective
"Even in the face of these great technical challenges the numbers have really surged," Sharfstein said. "I think it is really important to note that the exchange is a lot more than an IT system. We have been able to do a tremendous amount of manual work. We have applied a lot of elbow grease to get many thousands of Marylanders insurance in the face of a very frustrating IT system."
The state had always expected to see a surge in the final weeks, partly because some people naturally wait until a deadline nears.
At Healthy Howard, which has a contract with the state to enroll Marylanders, about 100 people were coming in each day last week, compared with 70 a day in prior weeks. The advocacy group said the website is still slow, but that its navigators have become more adept at getting around the problems.
"It really continues to be an ebb and flow," said
"It is better to have insurance," he said.
"Health insurance is not their No. 1 priority, but this now forces them to have it and hopefully they will go to the doctor," Zheng said.
Even with the glitches in the state's health exchange and the uncertainty it faces, some feel the state is still achieving the goal of getting people insured.
"It's not just avoiding a penalty," said
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