Two Weeks In, Maryland's Online Health Exchange Still Has Errors | WYPR

Two Weeks In, Maryland's Online Health Exchange Still Has Errors

Credit Maryland Health Connection Screenshot

Maryland's online health care exchange opened two weeks ago--and it's not been an entirely click-friendly experience. Today on the Checkup, we talk about what's worked--and what hasn't.

It’s been two weeks since Maryland residents could log on to the state's online health insurance marketplace.  It’s called the Maryland Health Connection, and it’s required as part of the Affordable Care Act. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the launch was not without difficulties.  Many people have faced technical glitches and problems with the site. Today on the Checkup, we talk about what's worked--and what hasn't.

As of last week, more than 200,000 people had visited Maryland’s exchange, nearly 26,000 had created accounts, and approximately 1,100 had actually enrolled with insurers.  There are an estimated 800,000 uninsured residents in the state.

The exchange gets compared to travel websites like Expedia and Travelocity, but it’s actually more complicated than that.  You’re not just putting your credit card information in.  You put in lots of identifying factors, and it goes to no fewer than six different checkpoints, including the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. That's a complicated maneuver for government websites.

There are also lots of small errors on the website--for example, when you finish creating an account, a screen pops up with a call center number listed as 555-5555. The actual number listed on the site is 855-642-8572, though it can be difficult to get through on that number as well. (We tried three times this morning, and weren't able to get through.)  Meanwhile, after you sign up, a map allows you to search for consumer assistance available in the area. Though the site is meant for Maryland residents, the default Google map starts with Madison, Wisconsin, and only shows brokers and navigator services in that city.  

You can explore the Maryland Health Connection here.  As a basis for comparison, check out Kentucky's state-run exchange, which has been highly praised.  You can also look at the federal exchange being used by 34 states, which has received heavy criticism.

We reached out to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the online portal, to talk about it, but they told us no one was available to speak with us.

On this episode of the Checkup, we talk with Sarah Gantz, who covers health care for the Baltimore Business Journal.  Check out her reporting here.  We also speak with Jonathan Wu, a co-founder of Value Penguin, a consumer finance website that’s been comparing health exchanges.

Produced by Stephanie Hughes.

Our series ‘The Checkup: How Health Care Is Changing in Maryland’ is made possible by grants from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Baltimore Association of Health Underwriters, and HealthCare Access Maryland.