WASHINGTON, October 31, 2013 — President Obama’s widely advertised healthcare exchange has faced widespread criticism for its technological failures. The Maryland version of the website is no exception. Maryland’s exchange website, Maryland Health Connection, launched on October 1, 2013. Since then, however, problems with the webpage have prevented many from signing up for the insurance program.
One of the most vocal critics of the website and it’s problems is Rebecca Pierce, the Executive Director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. In a press release, Pierce says:
“While we have been pleased with the interest in Maryland Health Connection, we have not been satisfied with the performance of Maryland’s health insurance website, or with the pace of improvements to the site since it launched on October 1.”
The statement goes on to note that Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the main contractor for creating the website, will implement changes to correct the technical issues on the exchange.
Pierce isn’t stopping there, as the Baltimore Business Journal reports, her agency is expected to hold meetings to discuss further technical issues. The Journal reports that approximately 1% of visitors to the Maryland Health Connection have signed up for insurance through the website. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is holding a series of educational seminars on the program and how to use the webpage.
Not all of the problems are related to technology issues. Annapolis Capital Gazette’s Jack Lambart told NPR:
“One of the problems also we’re seeing is that the online verification process for people to enter their Social Security number, driver’s license and get that verified online, that’s taking up a lot of time and really delaying the process for some people…
“Rebecca Pierce, who is the executive director for the Health Benefit Exchange, what she said is that if you look at other states like Kentucky or Washington, where you seeing much higher enrollment numbers, she was saying that some of those states, you know, you don’t have that quite stringent standards…
“And when you get to the end of the application process here in Maryland, they ask you to enter something online, either your Social Security card, pay stub, birth certificate, anything in the line that can verify you actually are a Maryland resident, they check that with a federal identification base and then kind of process your application.
“And so beyond just the standards of getting through the website, you’re seeing that process take a long time and kind of frustrate people.”
Lambart reports that there are nearly 800,000 uninsured in Maryland, and state officials had intended for 150,000 of them to be signed up for the program by January 1, 2014. With the number registered currently hovering at approximately 3,000 individuals, Maryland is far behind its goals.
Another issue Maryland faces is the SHOP exchange. According to Healthcare.gov, “The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is a new program that simplifies the process of buying health insurance for your small business.”
The main “Obamacare” website, which contains noticeable spelling errors, explains “For 2014, the SHOP Marketplace is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time-eqivalent [sic] employees (FTEs).”
Fox Business reports on recent cancellations to SHOP workshops in Maryland, “Workshops to be held by Maryland health officials regarding the state’s SHOP exchange for small-business employers have been canceled, leading many to believe that the small business exchange will be delayed past the scheduled launch date of January 1, 2014.”
The workshops were originally intended to educate small business owners about how to best take advantage of the program.
In a story titled “Doctors Find Errors in Data That Health Exchanges Get From Insurers” the Wall Street Journal states that physicians are noticing themselves listed on the exchange, even when they are not accepting new patients.
Evergreen Health Co-op, a Maryland health network, isn’t pleased with the roll out either. He tells ABC News “There are well over two million folks nationwide who are getting letters from their insurance carriers saying that their current insurance cannot be continued or renewed in January, because it does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act …There are 73,000 at least in Maryland that are getting those letters.”
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