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O’Malley: Most problems resolved on health website

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley faced more questions on Monday about the performance of the state’s health care exchange website, saying some computer glitches continue even though nine major problems have been resolved.

“It’s not glitch-free but functional for most users,” O’Malley said.

The governor announced that Optum/QSSI, a Columbia-based company, has been brought in to help improve the overall performance of the website. O’Malley also said CareFirst has agreed to extend the enrollment deadline from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27 to help more people get coverage that begins Jan. 1. Hours will be extended at call centers to help people enroll, O’Malley said. The administration also said health exchange officials will reach out to consumers who have started but not finished the application process through emails, regular mail and robocalls.

O’Malley, a Democrat, conceded that not everyone may be able to sign up in time to get coverage starting in January, but he said the state will keep working to make sure they can get signed up in February.

“It would have been nice if it all worked perfect on Oct. 1,” O’Malley said. “That didn’t happen, so we’re getting it up as quickly as we can and we’re making it better by degrees, but no doubt that will probably affect some people who might otherwise have been able to sign up if it had been rolled out in perfect working order across the nation, including in Maryland.”

Meanwhile, Maryland House Republicans called on the state to follow through on a pledge by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown last week to conduct a full assessment on why the website has been troubled by lingering computer problems. Brown announced at a news conference last week that he supported the assessment, after the state fixes the website.

“We are requesting that a full forensic audit of the exchange take place so that policy-makers and the public can better understand the failures of the rollout including cost to taxpayers, implementation status, and the steps needed to fix Maryland Health Exchange,” said Del. Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, who is the House minority leader.

Maryland is one of the states that has developed its own state-based exchange.

While Maryland’s website has had problems since its opening day, O’Malley said progress in fixing computer problems has been steady. He said more than 900 people enrolled in health care plans on Friday — more than on any other day yet. The governor said the state will keep working to make sure those who don’t get enrolled by Jan. 1 will get signed up for coverage in February.

“Some people won’t sign up under their own volition by Jan. 1,” O’Malley said. “But anybody who wants to, we want to help them do that as well, and that’s why we didn’t delay the launch of this, even though we knew it would be very imperfect, rocky and riddled with some serious user problems.”

O’Malley said his ultimate aim is to get 260,000 people signed up for health insurance by the end of March, which marks the close of the open enrollment period. O’Malley said the state is up to nearly 30,000 enrollments, with about 7,500 enrolled in private insurance plans. The state hopes to enroll 150,000 through private insurance plans and 110,000 through Medicaid by the end of March. The state plans to convert more than 80,000 people in the Primary Adult Care program into full Medicaid benefits on Jan. 1.