“The O’Malley-Brown Administration needs to understand what everyone else does - that the cure is worse than the disease,” said Craig. “The task before us is how to mitigate this situation so people can get health care, because Maryland citizens are still having trouble with the website. The state exchange enrollment numbers are simply not holding up and continue to lag behind other states. The Administration is also not able to give a precise number of how many people are not getting coverage even after they believe they have enrolled in a plan.”
Maryland’s latest enrollment numbers on private Affordable Care Act-compliant plans are 18,257. Maryland is in a group of state-led exchanges experiencing chronic under-enrollment figures which includes Minnesota, Hawaii and Oregon. On the other hand, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont are enrolling people at far higher rates than Maryland among the 14 states in all running their own exchanges. For example, Kentucky, which has a population significantly less than Maryland, reports enrollment numbers of 33,289 in private plans.
According to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, people may directly enroll through insurance carriers or seek the assistance of brokers. The problem is there is no public awareness campaign to inform individuals of these other options.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Maryland has received over $123 million in what the federal government deems “level II” grants. In the grant solicitation Gov. Martin O’Malley submitted to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the funds will in part support advertising and public relations of the exchange. Additionally, the O’Malley – Brown Administration has allocated $24 million in state funds in part to promote exchange outreach efforts according to a Maryland Reporter.com analysis. And the price tag is increasing as up to $14 million in taxpayer dollars are needed to hire a contractor to fix the web site and address enrollment problems.
“Up to $150 million dollars is going towards promoting a failing exchange, and throwing good money after bad needs to end now,” said Craig. “The Administration must realize that their intended solutions are only causing more problems, creating mass confusion, ruining credibility in government and harming our quality of life.”
Craig’s proposal would seek an HHS waiver to re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers. A complimentary awareness campaign would inform people of their rights to utilize Maryland insurance brokers who are licensed and experienced in helping individuals with health insurance. Utilizing call centers for those needing assistance with the website would remain in place. Craig, however, would re-examine the navigator model in which people having problems with the website must set appointments with temporary workers disbursed among several organizations.
As for the vexing issue of low-income individuals seeking subsidies, Craig supports U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski’s proposal to HHS to enable a direct data hub allowing people to obtain financial assistance without going through an exchange.
O’Malley recently committed more money to re-double a marketing campaign to direct more consumers to the online exchange after numerous technical failures of the website caused a delay in these plans.
Last Friday, the O-Malley-Brown Administration acknowledged systemic problems with transmitting enrollment data to insurers but did not give a precise number of how many are affected which means among the over 18,000 the state counts as having enrolled, a significant number of those may not have health insurance. The Administration will submit emergency legislation to the General Assembly to shuffle those people to another state program, the Maryland Health Insurance Plan.
Lt. Governor candidate and Maryland Delegate Jeannie Haddaway expressed concerns about adding yet more bureaucratic complexity under this approach.
“By simply re-allocating resources, state leaders have the power to mitigate the botched roll-out of Obamacare in Maryland,” said Haddaway. “It will not be successful in doing so, however, by adding more bureaucratic complexity as the Administration's latest proposal does. The priority needs to be enabling consumers not bureaucracy by ensuring that our citizens have access to health insurance as well as access to quality, affordable care.”
O’Malley grant application:
Emergency legislation and more funds: