Tomorrow in Maryland state Senate and House committees will take up an emergency bill designed to help residents who tried to sign up for health care on the state's troubled health exchange but were unable to because of technical problems on the website.
The problems with the state's exchange have been an embarrassment to Maryland's Democratic leadership, as the website was a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The technical problems have kept enrollments far below goals.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was tasked with leading the implementation of the website and other parts of the healthcare reform law, calls the bill fair for those who need it.
"There are a number of Marylanders, anywhere from a few hundred to upwards of $5,000, who because of no fault of their own have not been able to get access to healthcare through the exchange. So we're going to open up the eligibility for the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, which is a high-risk pool for Marylanders who have difficulty getting insurance," he says.
Opening up the eligibility to the state plan could cost up to $10 million dollars, but the bill is expected to pass because without it residents would not have health insurance and could face fines under the federal law.
The exchange has also become a liability for Brown politically, as he is seeking the Democratic nomination to be Maryland's next governor. His opponents have hammered away at his role in the launch.
Attorney General Doug Gansler says the emergency bill is "necessary but a sad commentary on the state of the exchange," while Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur says "politics and pride" prevented the rollout from succeeding in Maryland, necessitating the need for the General Assembly to get involved.