WASHINGTON -- The rollout of the Maryland health exchange website was a disaster, and now an audit may be turning into a federal case.
Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican representing Maryland's Eastern Shore, told Baltimore radio station WBAL on Tuesday that while he and Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia, had requested an audit of the exchange website by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, the probe has begun issuing subpoenas.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the HHS inspector general is not commenting on the probe, but that Tom McGraw, the President and CEO of Noridian Healthcare Solutions, which was contracted to work on the failed health exchange website, said in a statement that the company "received a document request from the Inspector General."
When a spokesperson working with Noridian was asked directly whether that meant a subpoena had in fact been issued, WTOP was told it would be accurate to say there had been "subpoena for documents."
Christopher Garrett, of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told WTOP in a statement that the exchange had not been subpoenaed, but that "We're in close communication with the I.G. and helping in every way we can."
While the parties directly involved are being measured about what they can and cannot say, Maryland elected officials were more willing to let fly.
"The Office of Inspector General has moved this from an audit into a full-blown investigation," Harris said in a statement. "The investigation has included the issuing of subpoenas. I called for the audit of the Maryland exchange because tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted, and those who wasted them should be held accountable. Now we know that fraud may have occurred and subpoenas have been issued."
The rollout of the health care exchange was Lt. Governor Anthony Brown's responsibility, and when the site repeatedly failed as Marylanders scrambled to meet the federal deadline to sign up under the Affordable Care Act, Brown took a lot of heat that's expected to gain new life as he runs for governor.
On Tuesday, after Harris made his comments, the Brown/Ulman campaign issued a statement accusing Harris of playing politics in connection to the federal investigation, adding that Brown had not been contacted by the inspector general.
Brown's Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, joined in the flurry of press releases, issuing one that hinted at possible impropriety in the awarding of the website's contract. "Taxpayers deserve to know how Anthony Brown and his colleagues were able to waste $200 million in tax dollars on a website, why no one acted to correct problems with the exchange until it was too late, what happened in all those closed-door meetings."
By the time the fixes are made, it's been estimated that the Maryland Health Exchange website will have cost $216 million, with a sizable chunk of that coming from the federal government.
In an interview with WTOP on Tuesday, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley told WTOP that fixes to the website, based on the Connecticut state model, would have the site in good shape for open enrollment in November.
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