The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General is opening an investigation into Maryland’s state-run health insurance marketplace, amid questions over spending on a still not fully-functioning website.

Responding to a request from Rep. Andy Harris, M.D., the open Republican in Maryland’s entire Congressional delegation, the OIG is set to examine how the state spent federal dollars — more than $100 million estimated this year — on the project.

According to the letter, sent to HHS on Feb. 12, Maryland is planning to spend an additional $33 million more than expected this year to fix the website and increase call center staff, bringing the cost of the marketplace to more than $261 million.

“Maryland officials ignored early warning signs and choose to waste and abuse federal taxpayer money by opening up what they knew was a flawed exchange to the public,” says Harris, whose district include the state’s Eastern Shore.  

There is no timeline set for the review by the nonpartisan and independent inspector general, but Harris says he is sure they “will thoroughly investigate and bring to light how hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted on one of the worst exchange rollouts in the country."

In his letter, Harris requested the inspector general analyze how federal dollars were spent on the exchange, the procurement process, the lack of internal controls during the creation of the exchange, who failed in their responsibilities to safeguard taxpayer money and if taxpayer money can be recouped from the state.

In February, state health secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein told a panel of lawmakers in Annapolis, the state capitol, that the state had to decide if it would stick with its own health exchange, adopt a hybrid model with the federal government, or that of another state, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Maryland state officials said they welcome this review by the federal government. “It’s no mystery what happened,” says Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley. “The vendors we hired failed to deliver us the product they promised.” She points out that the state has enrolled 205,408 Marylanders to date, with a March 31 goal of 260,000.

The main person who oversaw the rollout of the exchanges is Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. Brown is currently running for governor in the state and one of his primary opponents, current Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler says that the investigation is welcome news.

Brown's campaign manager Justin Schall says it is "not surprising" that Gansler "continues to parrot conservative republican Congressman Andy Harris and his attacks on Obamacare.

"Brown remains focused on getting as many people as possible signed up for affordable, quality health care, and as he has stated for months ... welcomes a full review so that we can learn from these challenges," Schall adds.

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