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O’Malley criticizes McDonnell over Obama health care legislation

Maryland is better prepared to benefit economically over other states because of its efforts to implement President Obama’s landmark health law upheld by the Supreme Court Thursday, Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

O’Malley (D) frequently referenced the Republican governor just to his south, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), as leaders who have not prepared their states to deal with the new law. States are required to set up exchanges for residents to purchase health care.

“We are ready and willing and very happy to share what we’ve learned in this process with governors of both parties,” said O’Malley, who spoke on a conference call with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D). The call was set up by the Obama campaign.

O’Malley, calling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare,”said states, such as Virginia, are “laggards in implementation rather than leaders.”

McDonnell has said he would meet with his staff to determine how or even if Virginia would move forward to create a health insurance exchange. He said a state-based marketplace for insurance policies is a bad idea, but that a federally created one would be worse.

McDonnell told CNN Friday that the law was a “$2.2 billion unfunded mandate.” He said the state would comply with the law but hoped it would be repealed by Congress or a new president.

“The people of Virginia don’t want this law, so we’ve got some challenges in addressing it,” McDonnell told Soledad O’Brien of CNN’s “Starting Point.”

O’Malley offered few details when asked about how much it might cost the state to implement the law.

Using federal funds, Maryland hired a contractor in March to start designing a $51.4 million computer system that would allow people to determine their own eligibility and enroll themselves for health-care coverage online. The state intends to upgrade the system later so it can be used to enroll residents in other social service programs.

O’Malley pointed out that Virginia has not passed legislation getting ready for implementing the health care law. McDonnell and other Republicans have contended that there was no reason to move ahead until the Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of the law.

It is unclear whether McDonnell and state leaders might call a special session. Federal funds for setting up the exchanges are available until January, but some lawmakers believe the General Assembly must act to receive the funds.

O’Malley said he’s glad the state acted early. “We cannot afford to go back to the status quo that found us spending more money …on wasteful health care costs,” he said.

Staff writer Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.

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