- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2014

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday the state’s Obamacare portal has “fallen short” but that his administration will redouble efforts to insure Marylanders under the new health care law.

“The healthcare website failed to perform as designed when it was launched — a source of great frustration—especially for those who were trying to obtain healthcare for the very first time,” he said in his final State of the State address. “My administration has not succeeded at every first try, but we have never given up.”

Mr. O’Malley, who is term-limited and will leave office at the end of the year, said failure can be the “deepest spur” and that the state will learn from the flawed rollout of the Maryland Health Connection.

Maryland was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of the Affordable Care Act. But its state-run health exchange, like the federally run exchange system that serves 36 states, encountered web glitches after its Oct. 1 launch.

It had enrolled little more than 18,000 people in private coverage as of Dec. 28, according to the most recent official data. Meanwhile, state-run exchanges in places like Kentucky and Washington have been deemed success stories with 33,000 and 68,000 enrollees respectively.

Mr. O'Malley highlighted the extension of coverage to nearly half a million people through other aspects of the law, such as its expansion of Medicaid.

“Now, thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, not a single person can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and no one can be dropped from their insurance because they get sick,” he said.

He also praised his state’s decision to be at the vanguard of a health-spending pilot program that aggressively regulates the price of medical services and rewards the quality, and not quantity, of care.

“The old payment system for health care, encouraged the volume of services instead of the wellness of our people,” he said. “The more sickness, the more pay … This new approach will change our payment system to reward hospitals for actually keeping people well.”