Democratic hopeful Mizeur decries ‘failure of leadership’ on Maryland’s health exchange


Maryland Del. Heather R. Mizeur. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather R. Mizeur on Monday called the rollout of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange a “debacle” and said the General Assembly needs to “step in and make it right.”

“Our current situation has been a twin failure of leadership being asleep at the wheel when the program was being designed and then overpromising that everything was fixed when it wasn’t,” said Mizeur, a state delegate from Montgomery County.

She became the latest member of her party to pointedly question the leadership of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration on the project, which has been overseen by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a leading Democratic candidate for governor.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who is also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has taken repeated shots at Brown in recent weeks for the technical glitches that have hindered enrollment through the state-run exchange.

Mizeur said Monday that “Maryland’s performance has been among the worst in the country” and called for an analysis of the pros and cons of redirecting Marylanders in search of insurance plans over to the federal marketplace.

Mizeur made several other suggestions in a statement in which she also called attention to health-care legislation she had passed during her seven years in the House of Delegates.

O’Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith declined to comment. A spokesman from Brown’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

O’Malley has acknowledged continuing problems with the exchange, which he has largely blamed on contractors, but he announced last month that the major problems affecting enrollment had been fixed.

Last week, O’Malley also announced that he would seek emergency legislation to allow Marylanders who were unable to obtain insurance through the exchange by Jan. 1 to access an alternative program.

“While the administration was conducting a press conference to declare that all the major glitches of the system had been addressed, legislators in every corner of the state were still dealing with frantic constituents unable to navigate a broken enrollment system that failed to meet the requirements of the new law,” Mizeur said. “Politics and pride have gotten in the way of protecting families in desperate need for health coverage.”

Mizeur said that the state should consider several options “for immediate relief to consumers” and “provide a full, thorough, and transparent accounting of the remaining issues to be fixed and the time frame it will take to accomplish a fully operational Maryland Health Connection.”

Among her own legislation that Mizeur highlighted were a pair of measures that have led to more aggressive outreach by the state to enroll eligible children in a subsidized insurance program. She said that the state received a $43 million grant last week because of the “innovative approach.”

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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