In new ads, Gansler calls Maryland’s health exchange a ‘mess’ he wouldn’t put up with


File: Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler (D) (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler has launched television and radio ads critical of the state’s online health insurance exchange, saying in one that he “wouldn’t put up with this mess.”

Gansler, the state’s attorney general, has sought for months to gain leverage in the race by criticizing the glitch-plagued exchange and the role that his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, has played in overseeing health-care reform in Maryland.

The 60-second radio ad and 15-second TV spot are Gansler’s first attempts to capi­tal­ize through paid commercials — though neither mentions Brown by name. (Gansler produced some earlier Web videos on the issue, mocking Brown’s leadership.)

Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said Gansler comes across as a Republican “attacking Obamacare.”

The radio ad, which is airing in the Washington market, begins with the voice of Bonnita Spikes, a retired nurse, expressing frustration at her efforts to navigate the Web site.

“I tried to sign up on the Maryland health Web site,” Spikes says. “I’ve tried at least 50 times. The Web site’s ridiculous. I mean really. … It’s just not working.”

A narrator goes on to say: “People needing heart medicine, cancer care or care for a child — tens of thousands of Maryland families, left without health-care coverage because people in charge couldn’t get their Web site up and running. Doug Gansler just wouldn’t put up with this mess.”

Gansler narrates the TV ad himself, and he makes similar arguments.

“As governor I won’t accept that failure,” he says. “People need health care. I’ll get it done.”

The campaign also debuted a second 15-second TV ad on Friday, in which Gansler talks about raising the minimum wage and plans for job creation. Both TV ads are initially airing in Baltimore and will debut later in the Washington market, Gansler aides said.

The new ads come just days after Gansler called on Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to appoint a special counsel to investigate the shortcomings of the state’s exchange. O’Malley declined.

Citing continuing problems, state officials announced last week that they had hired a new consultant to replace Maryland’s exchange with technology from Connecticut. Even so, they said they had exceeded an initial goal for enrollment as of March 31.

In response to the new radio ad, Brown campaign manager Justin Schall said in a statement:

“The truth is Anthony Brown worked to get over 295,000 Marylanders quality, affordable health care by helping to organize a staff surge and replacing vendors that failed to deliver; in stark contrast Doug Gansler has done nothing except join Republicans in attacking Obamacare and tearing down our progress in Maryland.”

Gansler spokeswoman Katie Hill said Schall’s statement “doesn’t even pass the laugh test,” noting that Maryland fell well short of its goal for enrolling people in private health care plans through the exchange. The goal was met largely as a result of higher-than-anticipated Medicaid enrollment.

The June Democratic primary for governor 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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