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Stopgap Proposed For Maryland Residents Hampered By Health Care Exchange

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Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified before a Maryland House Committee.
Matt Bush/WAMU
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified before a Maryland House Committee.

Maryland's healthcare exchange website has been beset by problems, which has also hampered the political ambitions of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is seeking to become the state's next governor. On Tuesday, Brown went before state lawmakers in Annapolis pushing a bill that would provide coverage to those who tried to sign up on the exchange but couldn't because of technical problems.

Brown was tasked with leading the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in Maryland, and the exchange was a large part of that.

"Everyone who was involved in setting up the exchange has responsibility and that includes me," Brown said.

Before the House Health and Government Operations Committee, Brown sought damage control amid reports he and other state leaders involved with the exchange did not know or ignored signs the website would not be able to handle the expected number of users when it launched last fall.

"In retrospect, if I knew nine months ago what I've learned since the launch, I would have insisted on receiving the underlying documentation that should have but didn't support those reports," Brown said.

Delegates from both parties peppered Brown and the exchange's staff with questions about the proposed fix for those who tried to sign up but couldn't. The measure would allow them to receive retroactive coverage through an existing state health plan. 

But there were far more queries about the launch of the website, including two about whether the state will seek compensation from the contractor who built the site and is now being blamed by Brown and others for its problems.

"It is also our interest that those who are responsible be held responsible," Brown said. "It should not be the taxpayer that is first footing this if it is a under performance issue with a vendor."

Earlier today, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced that four insurance carriers that provide healthcare through the state exchange will offer retroactive coverage to those who couldn't sign up at the start of this month, which potentially means fewer people would need the fix the bill up for discussion offers.

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