KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New Problems Hit D.C., Md. Health Insurance Exchanges

New outlets report that in Washington, some people trying to get coverage are being scammed. In Maryland, the executive director resigns under fire. Both are state-run exchanges.

The Washington Post: D.C.’s Online Health Exchange has "Hundreds" Of Problem Applications
The District’s online health-insurance exchange is grappling with “hundreds” of problematic applications from shoppers unable to enroll in health plans because of system error messages, an exchange spokesman said Friday. Exchange officials are in the process of identifying the account holders and contacting them, said Richard Sorian, a spokesman for DC Health Link. Most of the problems appear to stem from duplicate accounts that shoppers may have created inadvertently (Sun, 12/6).

Politico: Scam Targets D.C. Health Link 
The D.C. insurance exchange where thousands of Hill aides are shopping has confirmed that an outside scammer is redirecting customers to a fraudulent website. ... The fraud is widespread enough that they’re considering adding disclaimers to its website to warn users against divulging their check card or PIN numbers. ... One Senate staffer said that after trying and failing to log onto the website multiple times, he was redirected to a separate page where he was asked for his check card number and PIN. After calling customer service, he was told the web page was a scam (Winfield Cunningham and Everett, 12/6).

The Hill: Scam Reported To DC Health Exchange
“It’s one of those phishing expeditions that unfortunately arise when our website center is being frequented by the public. It’s not something internal to our system. We’re investigating to see if we can find out what’s going on,” Sorian said in a phone interview Friday to The Hill. ... Capitol Hill staffers must sign up for insurance through the ObamaCare exchange by Monday if they want the federal government to continue paying part of their premiums (Shabad, 12/6).

Roll Call: Phishing Scam Reported for DC Health Link
Phishing involves deceiving users into thinking they are providing personal information to a secure entity, when they’re really giving it directly to scammers. CQ Roll Call received news of the scam attempt from one staffer who encountered the fraudulent site after repeated failed attempts to log in to what the user believed to be the legitimate system. “I tried the ‘forgot password’ function. After about 15 attempts with that, I was finally taken to a forgot password page. On that page I was asked for my check card number and my ATM pin,” the congressional aide said (Lesniewski and Hess, 12/6).

Meanwhile, in Maryland --

The Associated Press: Director of Md. Health Insurance Board Resigns 
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, board chairman and secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, announced Rebecca Pearce’s resignation late Friday. The exchange is responsible for the website through which Maryland residents can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (12/6).

Baltimore Sun: Health Exchange Director Resigns
The exchange's rocky start and low enrollment have become ammunition for political attacks on Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was tasked by the governor with overseeing the state's implementation of the federal health care reform law. As state lawmakers grilled Sharfstein on Nov. 26 on why the health exchange was still broken, Pearce was on a week's vacation in the Cayman Islands. During the trip, she could not be reached by phone, email or text, officials confirmed Friday (Cox, 12/6).

WBAL: Executive Director of the MD Health Exchange Resigns
In a weekly report issued Friday afternoon,, the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange says 3,758 people have enrolled in private insurance plans through the exchange as of last Saturday. That's an increase of about 700 people over last week's report. State officials say technical glitches are still being fixed, but 69,961 people have set up accounts with the exchange, making them eligible to buy insurance (Lang, 12/6).

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