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Gansler asks O’Malley for independent probe of Maryland health exchange, gets rebuffed

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

Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler on Tuesday called on Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to appoint a special counsel to investigate the state’s online health insurance exchange, in his latest attempt to call attention to its shortcomings.

“Marylanders have waited more than six months for answers about why the exchange failed, how much was spent, and who was at fault,” Gansler, the state’s attorney general, said in a statement issued by his campaign. “A thorough, independent investigation is essential to getting health care reform done right in Maryland.”

Gansler’s request was almost immediately rejected by O’Malley, whose spokeswoman, Nina Smith, said: “We’re not going to waste time responding to attacks from political campaigns.”

Smith stressed that Maryland had met its initial enrollment target despite the exchange’s technological glitches, which prompted the decision last week to hire a new consultant to replace it with technology from Connecticut.

“We’re still focused on getting Marylanders enrolled in quality, affordable health coverage,” Smith said.

Gansler has sought for months to pin blame for the exchange’s problems on Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), a rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in June, whom O’Malley has endorsed. Brown was tasked by O’Malley with overseeing implementation of federal health-care reform in Maryland.

On Monday, Gansler said that to this point, state leaders, many of whom are backing Brown for governor, “haven’t been willing to ask tough questions.”

Gansler’s running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), called a legislative oversight committee set up to monitor the exchange “essentially a kangaroo court.”

Gansler suggested O’Malley use the same powers he exercised in 2008 when he appointed former Maryland attorney general Stephen H. Sachs to conduct an independent review of Maryland State Police surveillance of politically active groups during the previous administration.

“We must ask tough questions now so we don’t find ourselves in the same predicament come the next enrollment period,” Gansler said, pointing to several other states where he said more aggressive inquiries of health exchange performances are taking place.

State officials said last week that more than 295,000 Marylanders had gained health coverage by March 31 by enrolling in Medicaid or in a private plan using the exchange, beating an overall goal of 260,000.

The Medicaid enrollment has far exceeded expectations, while private enrollments have greatly lagged expectations.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery).

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



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