Board votes to upgrade Maryland Health Exchange using Conn. IT platform

The board that has overseen the troubled Maryland Health Exchange rollout voted Tuesday to abandon the state’s attempt at implementing its own universal health care plan in favor of adopting technology used in Connecticut.

The IT platform used in Connecticut is regarded by some as one of the most successful exchange rollouts in the country. 

READ: Recommendation for Maryland Health Connection IT Platform

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board of Trustees voted unanimously to dissolve Maryland’s attempt at running its own health exchange. Maryland was one of 14 states to try its hand at running its own health care exchange website. Secretary Isabel Fitzgerald, of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, made the recommendation to “leverage Connecticut[‘s] IT platform for open enrollment 2014.”

The plan would support private plans and Medicaid and would maximize use of existing hardware and software, according to points brought up during the meeting. Fixing the current system would cost taxpayers $66 million and take 12 months, without a guarantee that it would work, officials said. Upgrading to Connecticut's IT platform will cost taxpayers about $40- to $50 million, according to the board's recommendation. 

The deadline for the first enrollment period expired Monday at midnight. Maryland officials have been weighing what to do to be better prepared for the next enrollment period that opens in November.

 Maryland's exchange website crashed on the first day it opened Oct. 1. It still has serious problems.

Rep. Andy Harris issued a statement to the media prior to the board’s final vote.

"This evening, the board of the Maryland health exchange voted to abandon the state's failed online exchange and to adopt the technology used in Connecticut's exchange, instead of joining the federal exchange,” Harris said. “The board also decided to hire Deloitte, the contractor that built Connecticut's website. Connecticut has had one of the more successful health care exchange rollouts in the country, while Maryland has had one of the worst.

“The board was right to stop throwing away even more taxpayer dollars on a system that does not work,” the statement continued. “Regrettably, as opposed to joining the federal exchange, going with the Connecticut technology will still cost Marylanders tens of millions of dollars more. Plus, there is no assurance it will work in Maryland given the short time until the new open enrollment period this November."

 

In a statement following the board's vote, Gov. Martin O'Malley acknowledged the frustration caused by Maryland's faulty website. 

"Thanks to the incredible hard work and commitment of hundreds of consumer assistance workers, brokers, carriers, Exchange staff, and many other stakeholders -- Maryland exceeded our goal and has so far enrolled more than 295,000 people during this first open enrollment period," his statement began. "That means a lot to these families who have the security and peace-of-mind that comes with having quality, affordable health care. And it means a lot for the long-term affordability of our healthcare system."

About 230,000 of the 295,000 who successfully signed up with the Maryland system were Medicaid recipients. 

"The hard work of getting so many Marylanders enrolled was made even tougher because Maryland’s health exchange website did not meet expectations -- a source of great frustration, especially for those who were trying to obtain healthcare for the very first time," the statement continued. 

"Our Administration has not succeeded at every first try, but we have never given up. We learn from both success and failure. The vendors we hired failed to build us the platform they promised. So now that the first open enrollment period has ended, we’ve decided to upgrade our website."

O’Malley’s press office said the governor would discuss the next phase of implementing the Affordable Care Act at 7:30 p.m. in Annapolis.

Stay with ABC2 News for details. 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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