ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A Western Maryland lawmaker is asking for an investigation into the state's implementation of the Affordable Care Act within the Maryland General Assembly.
Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley says Maryland's Health Benefit Exchange isn't work. It's a disaster he says, and he wants to know who is responsible.
"When the public goes to sign up for it, nothing is working. We need to know why that happened, if there's some responsibility to be assessed, and we need to find that out. $65 million of taxpayer money was invested into this thing, and it's been a colossal failure," said Brinkley, (R) - Frederick County.
Brinkley hand delivered a letter to Senate President Thomas "Mike" Miller, and WHAG was the first outlet to get its hands on it. In the letter, Brinkley asks for the Maryland General Assembly to appoint a special committee to investigate what happened with the state health insurance exchange.
"It's criminal we've gone this far, so I think rather than sit back and try to point fingers without any information, it is up to the Legislature to do an investigation, find out what happened, why, and by whom, and try to assess some responsibility and some corrective action," Brinkley said.
In addition to giving Miller the letter, where Brinkley calls the rollout "disastrous," he presented his idea in the Legislative Policy Committee in Annapolis Tuesday afternoon.
Miller says he's open to the idea of a committee and is also trying to figure out what went wrong.
"We're going to let this play out and see the results of Maryland's health care exchange, and if it continues to be as unsuccessful as it has been in the past, then we're going to have the committees perform an investigation," said Miller, (D) - Prince George's and Calvert Counties.
Miller would like an existing committee to look at the issue, but Brinkley wants start a new committee with subpoena power.
"It's a matter of gathering the information so we know what is to be corrected so we don't have a debacle like this in the future," Brinkley said.
Miller says he'll start seriously looking at Brinkley's idea when session begins on January 8th.
"We're going to make sure it works," Miller said. "We're going to guarantee that it works, and we're going to find out why it hasn't worked out successfully so far."
Full text of the letter as follows:
December 16, 2013
The Honorable Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr.
President of the Senate
H-107 State House
Annapolis, MD 21401
Dear President Miller:
In the wake of Maryland’s disastrous implementation of the state health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act and the executive branch’s refusal to release information vital to determining exactly what went wrong with the rollout of the website and the responsible parties, I am requesting the presiding officers of the General Assembly appoint a Special Committee to investigate the implementation process, and that this Special Committee be granted all the powers necessary to conduct their investigation.
Based upon similar investigations by past legislative bodies, the presiding officers need to ensure the following:
1. Appointment of an independent counsel. The Special Committee needs independent counsel due to legal complexities the committee might encounter. The legislative members need independent counsel that is experienced and well-versed in national health insurance policy, implementation, and procedures.
2. Grant subpoena power to the Special Committee. The power to issue subpoenas is an essential tool that has been granted to Special Committees established by the Legislative Policy Committee in the past.
3. Expand the scope to before implementation began. The key question in the investigation is whether any health care exchange personnel or those directly overseeing implementation of the Affordable Care Act made decisions that ultimately hurt the state in the end. The scope of review of the Special Committee must include the time leading up to implementation, when any conversations took place or decisions were made.
4. Review the procurement process for the exchange website contract. The health care exchange personnel were exempt from the normal procurement process, and selected a North Dakota firm whose core business is not even in website development over three other options. The Special Committee must examine all aspects of the website malfunctions over the past three months.
5. Work out a timeline of who know what and when. Much of the damage from the website rollout can be traced to the lack of communication between the executive branch agencies and the public until after the website went live. The Special Committee needs to uncover when the implementation started to break down, who knew about the breakdown, and whether something could have been done to lessen the damage before the launch of the website.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, which I believe is critical to assuring the public that the state legislature is truly committed to determining why the rollout of the state health insurance exchange website failed so tremendously and where the responsibility lies. Appointing this Special Committee and giving it these powers are vital to conduct the thorough and independent investigation that the public deserves.
Senate Minority Leader