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Craig proposes move away from state health benefit exchange site

A Republican candidate for governor and his running mate are calling for Maryland to divert money earmarked for promoting the state health care benefit exchange to efforts that would encourage residents to sign up for insurance using private brokers.

Harford County Executive David Craig

Harford County Executive David Craig

“Up to $150 million dollars is going towards promoting a failing exchange, and throwing good money after bad needs to end now,” said Harford County Executive David Craig in a statement Monday.  “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 said he supports seeking a waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services that would allow the state to “re-program funds to launch a public awareness campaign informing consumers of their right to obtain health insurance directly through carriers” as well as a complimentary campaign focusing on resident’s rights to use licensed insurance brokers to obtain qualified insurance plans.

Call centers currently in place to help people who need assistance with the state health care benefits exchange site would remain operational though Craig said he would re-examine the navigator model current in use.

Maryland has received $123 million in federal grants to develop and implement its site. The state has spent another $24 million on efforts related to the exchange.

Craig said that price tag will increase as as much as $14 million will be needed to fix the faltering insurance portal that so far has registered only 18,257 people since opening October 1.

“Up to $150 million dollars is going towards promoting a failing exchange, and throwing good money after bad needs to end now,” Craig said in his statement.  “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.”

Last Friday, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced they will seek passage of emergency legislation meant to protect people who thought they had successfully signed up for insurance through the state website but now find that they are, in fact, uninsured.

O’Malley and Brown could not be specific about the number affected but said it ranges from a few hundred to as many as 5,000.

Those people would be moved to a high risk insurance pool as a safety net until problems with the site can be fixed.

Del. Jeannie Haddaway, who is Craig’s lieutenant governor running mate, said in a statement she is concerned about the additional bureaucracy that would be created by the emergency legislation.

“By simply re-allocating resources, state leaders have the power to mitigate the botched roll-out of Obamacare in Maryland,” Haddaway said in the joint statement with Craig.  “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.”

The two Republicans aren’t the only ones expressing concerns about Maryland’s health care exchange site.

Last week and again on Monday, Rep. John Delaney, a freshman Democrat from Maryland, questioned the Maryland site. On Monday, he sent a letter to state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein about the feasibility of having the state move to the federal health care exchange website.

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