Feds to investigate Maryland's health exchange

Federal investigators will be looking into how Maryland spent million of dollars in federal grants for its troubled health exchange.

The federal health department’s inspector general will be investigating the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and its online health insurance marketplace, Rep. Andy Harris told the Baltimore Sun. Harris, a Republican from Baltimore County, was among the lawmakers who requested the audit from the federal health department. The inspector general declined to comment for the Sun story.

Harris and Georgia Republican Jack Kingston requested the investigation in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services dated Feb. 12. Harris told the Sun that the inspector general had contacted him and indicated the office would look into the exchange.

In their letter, the two congressmen asked the department to look into the “flagrant waste and abuse of taxpayer monies” spent on the exchange.

“As a result of the fact that Maryland appears to be willing to continue to waste tens of millions of more federal dollars more [sic], we ask that the investigation start immediate,” Harris and Kingston wrote.

The total cost of the state’s exchange is expected to reach $260 million, a majority of which will be paid for by federal grants.

Maryland’s exchange is among those that have had the most problems since launching Oct. 1. Most recently the exchange board cut ties with website contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions. Exchange leaders have largely blamed Noridian for the system’s ongoing problems. The state had paid just under $68 million to Noridian when the company’s contract was terminated.

A joint oversight committee on the exchange has asked state auditors to conduct a performance audit of the exchange. The audit would not begin until the exchange’s open enrollment period closes at the end of March and the report would not be complete until next summer.