Number of staffers with health coverage emerges as issue in race for governor in Md.

In Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor, you’re more likely to be getting help with health insurance coverage if you work for the campaigns of Anthony Brown or Heather Mizeur than Doug Gansler.

Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Mizeur, a delegate from Montgomery County, both offer employer-sponsored plans to staff members on their gubernatorial campaigns. Seventeen of Brown’s 25 employees are covered, as are five of Mizeur’s 12 paid staffers, according to campaign spokesmen.

Gansler, the state’s attorney general, does not provide coverage directly but instead tells employees that the campaign will supplement their salaries to pay for a private plan if they don’t already have insurance through a spouse or parents.

As of Sunday, two of Gansler’s 21 staff members were receiving such a supplement, according to campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock.

Wheelock said the lower percentage of Gansler staffers who are covered likely reflects the larger number of those who already had health insurance when they started working for the campaign.

One factor affecting all three campaigns is the number of young staffers. Under the Affordable Care Act, children can now stay on the health plans of their parents until they reach age 26.

“Doug supports health care for everyone and that includes his staff,” Wheelock said. “It’s just a consequence of the staff makeup and the need.”

He added that Gansler’s policy provides more flexibility than the approach taken by Brown and Mizeur.

“The nice thing is, you can pick your plan,” Wheelock said. “We tell people find the best plan, and we’ll cover the costs.”

Gansler’s opponents were less generous in their assessments of the discrepancy.

Brown campaign manager Justin Schall called it “irresponsible and hypocritical” for Gansler to provide help to such a small percentage of his staff, given Gansler’s campaign reported having more than $6 million in the bank as of January. (Brown and his running mate reported more than $7 million.)

For months, Gansler has bashed Brown for the state’s poor implementation of its online health insurance marketplace while at the same time touting his support for the goals of President Obama’s health reforms. Brown was tasked by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) with implementing changes called for by the federal law.

“The Brown campaign covers the full cost of health insurance for 68 percent of our employees,” Schall said. “It’s difficult to believe that Gansler’s campaign should only be covering 9 percent. Running for governor is about doing the right thing, even when it’s hard or costly.”

The Brown campaign has offered its employer-sponsored plan through CareFirst since August. Prior to that, Schall said, the campaign offered $250 a month to any full-time employee without health insurance who wanted to purchase a plan.

Mizeur spokesman Steven Hershkowitz said his campaign’s employer-sponsored plan is available to all full-time staff members and suggested more would participate if they weren’t already covered by their parent’s plans. He noted that as a delegate, Mizeur authored a similar provision allowing longer dependent coverage on the state level before it became federal law.

“Providing extensive health coverage for my employees has always been a priority for me as a small business owner, and now for my campaign,” Mizeur said in a statement. “It is simply the right thing to do. You cannot be taken seriously as an advocate for high-quality, affordable health care for all if you are not willing to put those principles into action.”

In the 2010 election, the campaigns of both O’Malley and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) offered health-care coverage to their employees.

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