Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) on Thursday compared the state’s troubled rollout of its online health insurance exchange to “a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.”
“It’s comical that it’s not working,” Gansler told reporters. “ It’s tragic for folks who don’t have access to health care.”
Gansler, a Democratic candidate for governor, has been highly critical of the role played by his rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), in overseeing the implementation of the federal health care law in Maryland. Brown co-chairs a council that has guided reforms in the state but has said he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the exchange.
Gansler said Thursday that his comments were directed toward the state’s decision to “outsource” work on the exchange to a North Dakota company, which he called “the most intriguing component” of the project.
“It’s like a Saturday night Live skit,” Gansler told reporters in Annapolis.
His comments came at a press conference that Gansler called to announce Maryland’s share of a national settlement with one of the country’s largest mortgage servicers over questionable foreclosure practices.
Gansler was asked what he thought of suggestions by Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and others that the state abandon its health insurance exchange and allow Marylanders to shop for insurance plans in the federal marketplace instead.
“I think the best solution would be for Maryland to get its Web site up and running,” Gansler said. “Other states could do it. This isn’t that hard.”
He blamed Brown for “a failure of leadership and a lack of preparation” and said that he has “confidence” that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) “will be able to get this up and running.”
Later Thursday, Brown campaign manager Justin Schall fired back.
“While the governor and lieutenant governor are focused on solutions, Gansler is in the same place he’s been since the beginning: sitting on the sidelines rooting for health care to fail and sounding more like a Republican hack than a leader who understands complex issues,” Schall said. “What kind of public servant finds entertainment in other people’s struggle to get affordable health care? The people of Maryland deserve better.”
Gansler said Thursday that he supports President Obama and the health-care law but is troubled by how it has been implemented in Maryland.
O’Malley said last weekend that most of the major technological problems hindering enrollment on the state Web site had been fixed.
As of Friday, 7,435 people had chosen to enroll in private plans through the state exchange, according to figures released by O’Malley’s office. The state has set a goal of enrolling 150,000 people by the end of March, a target that O’Malley has continued to stick by.
An additional 22,323 people had enrolled in Medicaid through the exchange as of Friday, officials said. The goal for Medicaid is 110,000 people by the end of March.
Although no official figures have been released, administration officials say enrollment this week has picked up significantly, an indication the site is working better, they say.