Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Maryland Obamacare Exchange Forms Advisory Committee Reflecting 'Gender, Racial, Ethnic, and Geographic Diversity'

    The state agency in charge of Maryland's beleaguered Obamacare Marketplace, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE), is looking to establish a standing advisory committee to provide the board of the MHBE advice and input on a "broad range of policy issues."  The MHBE sent out a letter to "stakeholders" this week who might have an interest in serving on the committee.  While the solicitation does not include prerequisites, qualifications, or credentials required to serve, it expresses the board's desire that the committee reflect "the gender, racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the State, as well as one that constitutes a diverse cross–section of stakeholders in the MHBE."
    A copy of letter appears below [highlight added]:

    At the link included in the letter, the board provides a template of a "voluntary, non-binding letter of interest" that asks respondents only for name, organization (including business category), contact information, and  two short answers: how their participation would contribute to the expertise, experience, and diversity of the standing advisory committee, and a description of their knowledge and expertise regarding policy issues of importance to the MHBE.
    The problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Maryland have ranged from website crashes to lower than expected enrollment to, more recently, faulty Medicaid enrollments.  The exchange has tried extending deadlines, offering retroactive coverage, and even replacing the leadership of the team in charge of the Maryland Health Connection, but problems persist.
    In February, the MHBE even solicited proposals for "WEB-based entities", essentially substitute websites to perform the sign-up and enrollment functions that MarylandHealthConnection.gov was intended to perform.  These "WEB-based entities", however, would still be forced to take the enrollment information back to the Maryland Health Connection to actually enroll consumers in health plans.  While the MHBE confirmed this via email on February 10, the agency has failed to provide further information despite multiple follow up email requests in the intervening weeks.
    In the meantime, the MHBE posted the notice regarding the standing advisory committee.  The original deadline of February 28, 2014 for applications for the committee has been extended to March 7, 2014.  No reason was given for the extended deadline.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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