Gansler calls Maryland’s health exchange a ‘$200 million failure’ in latest TV ad

Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday released his third television ad on health care, promising to “get tough” on proposed rate hikes by insurance companies and calling the state’s online health exchange “a nearly $200 million failure.”

The 30-second spot, which Gansler’s campaign said will debut Thursday in the Baltimore market, is Gansler’s latest attempt to call attention to problems with the exchange, for which he has sought to pin blame on Democratic rival Anthony G. Brown.

As Maryland’s lieutenant governor, Brown was tasked by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) with implementing federal health-care reforms in the state.

Katie Hill, a campaign spokeswoman for Gansler, the state’s attorney general, said the “nearly $200 million” figure cited in the ad combines two costs that have been detailed in newspaper stories: nearly $130 million spent on the state’s health exchange to date; and an estimated $40 to $50 million that will be required to replace the system with technology from Connecticut.

Maryland officials have determined making the switch to Connecticut’s system should be less expensive than continuing to attempt fixes to the existing system.

According to O’Malley administration officials, the $130 million figure includes all costs associated with launching and operating the exchange, which debuted Oct. 1. About $90 million of those costs are technology related.

Joshua M. Sharfstein, Maryland’s secretary of health and mental hygiene, has said the true cost of the shelved exchange was about $55 million. That figure does not include money that would have been spent anyway had the system operated as expected.

O’Malley administration officials have estimated replacing Maryland’s system with the Connecticut technology will cost between $40 million and $50 million, plus some hardware and software expenses.

Officials say they hope to recoup some of their costs through litigation with the private contractors responsible for building the faulty exchange.

Like previous Gansler ads on health care, Brown is not named in this new ad. Gansler also touts his efforts as attorney general to fight insurance companies “when they unfairly denied coverage to families and children.”

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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