ANNAPOLIS – Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified before Senate and House committees Tuesday, supporting emergency legislation that would give individuals another opportunity to enroll in health care under the Maryland Health Insurance Plans if they missed the deadline.
Several technological issues that occurred with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s website since its launch in October caused between “several hundred to up to 5,000” people to miss the deadline, Brown said. If passed, the bill would keep Maryland Health Insurance Plans, a pool for high-risk individuals that state officials call a “safety net,” open until the end of March for individuals who attempted to enroll in coverage through the website and were unsuccessful.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and Brown also announced Tuesday that the four insurance carriers participating in the state’s exchange — CareFirst, United Healthcare, Evergreen Health Cooperative and Kaiser Permanente — have agreed to provide coverage that is retroactive to Jan. 1, extending the deadline to Jan. 21. Brown said he believes this option will take care of the “vast majority” of the people who were unable to sign up by the original deadline.
“We believe [today’s agreement] will provide Marylanders with the best option, the option to receive retroactive coverage, to obtain a federal subsidy and to only enroll once,” Brown said.
Despite this announcement, Brown stood by the importance of the emergency legislation.
“Even with this new retroactive private option that was announced this morning, we believe the … legislation in front of you is necessary because there may be individuals, maybe a few hundred, who missed the window to sign up for this retroactive coverage,” Brown said. “We need this … option that’s in front of you to make sure no one slips through the cracks.”
The administration estimates that the emergency provision will benefit “probably a few hundred” people, and will cost the state between $400 and $700 per person per month on average, depending on the individual’s plan.
Several senators demanded answers from Brown as to what caused so many issues with the website’s rollout, but Brown said he was staying focused on fixing the issue, rather than dwelling on what went wrong.
“I think what we ought to be doing is to be fixing the problem. There will be a time when we do a thorough review … where we look at what happened, what went wrong, and we can ensure that doesn’t happen again,” Brown said. “Today I would urge that we don’t take soldiers off the firing line, and let’s not ground any helicopters as we are waging the battle right now to enroll as many Marylanders as possible.”