From the Craig/Haddaway Campaign:
Harford County Executive and Maryland candidate for Governor David Craig urged U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Administration healthcare point man and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to solve a problem on the federal health care website which sends Marylanders to other states to seek in-person assistance. The so-called navigator program and other iterations such as application assisters are provisions of the Affordable Care Act intended to help people sign up for health insurance coverage.
Sebelius wrote in the op-ed, “A happy, healthy New Year,” which ran in the Baltimore Sun January 1, that people could seek “in person” assistance by consulting a local help section on health care.gov.
The section allows consumers to enter a zip code to get assistance in person if they are having difficulty with the Maryland exchange. Entering a Baltimore zip code, however, sends consumers to distant areas including York, Pennsylvania and Alexandria, Virginia.
“This should be a relatively easy fix for the two Administrations to work together on to incrementally reduce mass confusion over the Affordable Care Act,” said Craig. “The federal and state government should be directing people to the correct resources in a consistent and accurate manner, and the misleading data on the federal website only makes matters worse for people already having trouble getting health insurance in Maryland.”
It turns out Baltimore zip code 21201 is served by an organization on 201 E. Baltimore St within that same zip code. The non-profit has received 30 major grants, $23 million in cumulative funding and $8 million in taxpayer funds from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange which administers Maryland Health Connection. Maryland is one of 14 states administering their own exchange.
It appears a software glitch causes zip code searches to direct people to neighboring states that opted to use the federal exchange. The David Craig campaign used a live chat customer service feature on the federal site attempting to clarify if it is the government’s intention to send Maryland consumers to Virginia to seek in-person assistance. When asked if it was required to go to Virginia to seek assistance, the federal government’s live chat representative said, “Yes that is correct.”
“This is unacceptable,“said Craig. “Federal and state information need to be integrated at least on a basic level, or they need to disable the zip code search function.”
Typing in “Baltimore” on some computers directs consumers to a link to Maryland Health Connection, where ultimately resources can be found within the state. Many individuals, however, are accustomed to providing zip codes in daily transactions, which in this case, will either send people across state lines or cause them to give up on seeking assistance.