The two leading Democratic candidates for governor of Maryland engaged in some trash talk Tuesday over the implementation of health-care reform in the state.
The campaign of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) accused Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) of “dropping the ball” on the rollout of the Maryland Health Exchange on a day when Brown appeared alongside past and present Washington Redskins players to promote enrollment in insurance programs.
Brown was on hand in Capitol Heights as Redskins linebacker London Fletcher and now-commentator Rick “Doc” Walker promoted new radio and television ads inviting residents of the Washington region to call 211 to learn more about health-care options.
Along with the state’s health secretary, Brown co-chairs Maryland’s Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, which is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the state.
In an interview over the weekend, Gansler said there had been “a clear lack of leadership and competence” on Brown’s part.
Others from Gansler’s 2014 campaign echoed those sentiments on Tuesday, including Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), Gansler’s running mate.
“He has constantly ducked responsibility and has refused to be straight about the problems and what he’s doing to fix them,” Ivey said in a statement, adding that she and Gansler are big supporters of the president’s health-care reforms and are concerned that Brown “has given Obamacare critics ammunition to attack it” in Maryland.
Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, later said Gansler “sounds like the Republicans attacking the president’s health-care plan.”
“The lieutenant governor share’s everyone’s frustrations with the difficult rollout but believes that the goal of Obamacare — affordable health care for all so that no one is left behind — is worth pursuing regardless of the obstacles.”
Schall added that Gansler is a member of the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council and said that his attendance over the past three years had been very spotty.
“When the real governing was being done, Gansler was nowhere to be found,” Schall said. “He seems more interested in tearing down health care than finding a solution.”
Gansler spokesman Bob Wheelock said that either Gansler or a high-level aide has attended all the meetings and that Gansler helped defend the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Spare us the lectures,” Wheelock said. “It’s Lt. Gov. Brown who failed to do his job.”
The new radio and television ads, sponsored by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund, are part of a $400,000 campaign to encourage more enrollment in the region in affordable health plans, said Vincent DeMarco, the group’s president.
He said the idea for the ads had been in the works long before Maryland experienced troubles with the rollout of its health-care exchange. He said no state money is being used to pay for the ads.
Anton Gunn, director of external affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was among the speakers Tuesday at the kickoff of the ad campaign.
He acknowledged that “there have been some challenges” with health exchanges in Maryland and nationally in recent weeks.
“This is an example of how you overcome challenges,” Gunn said.