Gansler renews attack on Brown’s handling of Maryland health insurance exchange


Maryland Attorney General Dougls F. Gansler. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The latest development in Maryland’s race for governor was something you don’t see every day: A candidate handing out his rival’s campaign literature.

But Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) wanted to make sure reporters got a good look at the brochure of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) on Monday so that he could properly attack it. In the glossy piece, Brown says that under his leadership, Maryland is “leading the nation in implementing President Obama’s health reform law.”

Gansler had summoned the media to Baltimore on the final day of the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act to renew his criticism of Brown’s “failed leadership” of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange.

Gansler, the state’s attorney general, said at a news conference that he found it “unbelievable” that Brown is asking voters for a promotion this year, given the glitches that have plagued Maryland’s insurance marketplace and hindered enrollment efforts.

“He was in charge of something that could have been a success with the right leadership but has failed and harmed so many Marylanders, especially vulnerable populations, like children and people from the immigrant communities who desperately need health care,” Gansler said.

At the event, Gansler also proposed outreach campaigns to boost enrollment among three groups in the future: Latinos, children and people with chronic diseases.

Brown’s campaign returned fire in a press release before Gansler even spoke.

“Doug Gansler has done nothing to help everyday Marylanders sign up for health care,” Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said. “Instead, all he does is attack Obamacare.”

Aides said that in contrast, Brown had spent recent days making appearances on the radio and at churches, among other places, to encourage Marylanders to sign up before the deadline.

Schall also knocked Gansler for not offering health insurance plans to his campaign staff. Gansler’s campaign has instead offered to reimburse employees for private plans they purchase, an option few staffers have taken advantage of. Gansler aides say most staff members are already covered through a plan of a spouse or parent.

The arguments on both sides were largely familiar. Prior to Monday’s news conference, Gansler’s campaign had issued at least 27 press releases criticizing Brown and Maryland’s insurance exchange.

Gansler has also repeatedly said he supports the health-care law and is only taking issue with Brown’s role in its implementation in Maryland.

A Washington Post poll in mid-February found little evidence that Brown has been damaged yet by fallout from the episode.

Only 5 percent of Marylanders said Brown is “mainly to blame” for problems with Maryland’s health exchange. Forty-one percent said state or federal health administrators were most responsible, and 11 percent mostly blamed O’Malley.

The poll found Brown with a 2-to-1 lead over Gansler in Democratic primary that also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).

The issue of the health exchange is certain to continue getting attention, however. On Tuesday, the board that oversees Maryland’s exchange is expected to vote to replace the state’s online exchange with technology from Connecticut, which has had one of the most successful exchanges in the country, and hire the contractor that built that system, Deloitte.

Gansler did not express a strong preference Monday whether the state should go with the Connecticut model or steer Marylanders to the federal exchange, as he previously proposed.

He also was critical of those leading a legislative review of the exchange’s shortcomings in Annapolis.

“There’s been a coverup by all the entrenched politicians who’ve endorsed the lieutenant governor because they don’t want to embarrass him,” Gansler said.

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