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Federal official notes progress in Maryland's health exchange revamp

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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Maryland has successfully completed 17 of 21 milestones to revamp the state's troubled health care marketplace with technology from Connecticut, according to a letter written to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in the letter this week that Maryland plans to complete the last several milestones to make the transition in the coming weeks. The state is working to make the new state-based health exchange marketplace ready for the 2015 open enrollment period, and Tavenner wrote that CMS has reviewed the cost and feasibility analyses conducted by Maryland.

"We understand that utilizing Connecticut's proven technology provides Maryland a fully functional system that requires only making those changes necessary to align with Maryland's policies and branding," Tavenner wrote. "This approach is expected to result in fewer burdens on state and federal resources."

Tavenner also wrote that CMS understands that additional Affordable Care Act grant funds will not be required for the state-based market place.

Maryland has a $43 million contract with Deloitte Consulting to revamp Maryland's health exchange website with the Connecticut technology. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland's health secretary, said while there are additional costs in the short term with making the transition, annual costs will end up being less than the state had originally planned because the new system costs less to maintain.

Sharfstein also said the cost of transitioning to the Connecticut technology turned out to be a less expensive alternative to moving to the federal system. Maryland would have needed to address the many Medicaid enrollees it has signed up under the health care overhaul. The Connecticut health exchange technology was chosen largely because it was effective and preserves Medicaid enrollments.

Maryland officials have been working to fix the state's health exchange website after it crashed almost immediately after opening on Oct. 1. Maryland enrolled about 75,000 people in private health plans, about half as many as the state initially aimed to sign up in private plans. However, the state ended up enrolling more than 300,000 people through Medicaid.

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