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State reaches health exchange goal by lowering it

Maryland’s struggling health benefit exchange has suddenly reached an important enrollment goal.

But rather than a sudden flurry of people successfully registering through the state website the state has simply lowered the goal to the tune of about 100,000.

Carolyn Quattrocki

State Health Benefit Exchange Interim Director Carolyn Quattrocki speaks to a legislative oversight committee on Feb. 10, 2014. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

The Washington Post, citing a letter sent by researchers to Carolyn Quattrocki, the interim director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, reports that the goal of 260,000 enrollments has been revised down to 160,000. The state currently has about 190,000 enrollments.

Last week the exchange released new numbers showing that more than 180,000 people had registered. That number includes 60,672 people enrolled in Medicaid since Oct. 1 and another 33,251 who registered for private health insurance through the site. The bulk of that number comes from the more 95,889 who were automatically rolled over from the Primary Adult Care program into Medicaid.

Researchers at the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, set the original goal in July 2012. They now believe the mistake comes mislabeling calendar years and fiscal years—essentially a double counting of enrollment periods.

“It’s better to have the correct data to put things into the proper context,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Maryland’s secretary of health and mental hygiene, in an interview with The Washington Post Sunday. “This doesn’t change any of the challenges we’re facing, but it does put those challenges into context.”

The reduction in goals is certain to come up later today as Sharfstein and Quattrocki are expected to appear before a joint legislative oversight committee.

Two weeks ago, Sharfstein and Quattrocki acknowledged that some problems with the website were so bad that they would not likely be fixed before the open enrollment closes on March 31.

Sharfstein told legislators that the state was considering a number of options for the failing website including shutting it down altogether and moving to the federal health care website. [subscriber access]

A week ago, a state health department spokeswoman confirmed that Charles J. “Chuck” Milligan, the deputy secretary of health care financing at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will leave his post [Subscriber Access] in April even as Medicaid expands under the federal Affordable Care Act.