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O’Malley Confident Health Exchange Will Meet Goal

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — Despite a rocky start with health care reform, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday he is still aiming to meet the goal of enrolling 260,000 people in private insurance and Medicaid through the state’s health care exchange by the end of March.

O’Malley, outlining how the state is addressing challenges to enrolling people, said most of the problems with the exchange’s website have been addressed. He said a computer glitch relating to tax credits should be fixed this week. A more stubborn problem involves screens freezing, and O’Malley says progress has been made diagnosing the matter.

The state hopes to enroll 150,000 people through private insurance plans and another 110,000 in Medicaid by the end of March when open enrollment closes. As part of Maryland’s initiative, about 81,000 people who participate in the Primary Adult Care Program will automatically be eligible for Medicaid in January. So far, about 5,200 have been enrolled in private insurance plans, and about 16,500 have been enrolled through Medicaid.

“We’ve had a rocky first half, but we look to make up as much ground as we possibly can in the second half,” O’Malley said.

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The Democratic governor emphasized that greater numbers of people have enrolled in recent weeks as more problems have been addressed. He also said he believes careful attention to protecting the privacy of enrollees has contributed to the computer problems and that website designers “probably erred on the side of security.”

“Some of the problems, some of the technical glitches with this site, were due to the fact that we designed it in a way that would make it much harder for people to access,” O’Malley said.

The governor also noted that a 60-day delay of opening the website had been discussed before its debut on Oct. 1, but that he decided to move ahead with the initial starting date to get as many people as enrolled as soon as possible.

“I wish it were as simple as buying a book from Amazon, but it’s not,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley also said the state hasn’t pushed hard on an advertising campaign to encourage enrollment, largely because the website has been troubled.

“We have yet to really begin the marketing aspects of this, because we want to get the site up to a better level of functionality, not perfection but functionality, before we start the marketing effort,” O’Malley said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who held a briefing in Baltimore on the exchange on Tuesday, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the state’s health secretary, and Carolyn Quattrocki, the interim director of the exchange, also attended the briefing on Thursday.

(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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