Feds to investigate Maryland's Obamacare exchange
The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services will open an investigation into issues surrounding the botched roll out of Maryland's Obamacare insurance exchange.
The request came from Republican Rep. Andy Harris.
This is the second federal investigation into a state Obamacare exchange. Cover Oregon, which has yet to sign anyone up on the web, was targeted last week by HHS.
The IG’s move, first reported by The Baltimore Sun, follows the announcement last week that the Government Accountability Office would look into Cover Oregon, which has not been able to enroll anyone entirely online yet, and other exchanges.
Both Maryland and Oregon are Democratic-led states that embraced the ACA and eagerly agreed to build their own new health insurance exchanges. Both pledged to be pace-setters, but both ended up having technical messes that hampered coverage enrollment.
Maryland’s botched rollout has become an issue in the Democratic gubernatorial primary — a headache for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the front-runner who was the point man on Obamacare implementation for the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley. Doug Gansler, the state attorney general who is also running for the governor’s seat, has slammed Brown for his role and urged that Maryland residents be allowed to choose whether they want to use the state exchange or the federal one instead.
The inspector general’s office will be investigating five areas flagged by Harris and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees HHS. In particular, the IG will be looking at the contracting process, which awarded a $193 million contract to Noridian Healthcare Solutions to build the exchange. State officials fired the company last month.
Harris’s office also said the IG would be looking into problems with Medicaid enrollment, specifically the computer systems that determine who is eligible for the public health insurance program. The state has already received a waiver from federal health officials to wait six months before conducting so-called re-determinations, a process in which some enrollees typically fall off the Medicaid rolls. State officials estimated that the cost of the delay would total about $30 million in 2014 and 2015.
Maryland's troubles are probably more related to incompetence than any deliberate criminal acts, although I'm sure the IG will be looking closely at Noridian's subcontracting a large part of the job to an unauthorized company, as well as their assurances to state lawmakers before the site went live that everything was OK.. But former officials at Cover Oregon may be investigated for lying to Congress about the progress of the site in order to continue recieving federal aid for the project.
There are other problem sites that may be investigated, including Hawaii, Massachusetts and Minnesota. And healthcare.gov is still not performing as advertised.
Looks like the HHS inspector general is going to be kept very busy over the next several months.