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Maryland officials start over on health care exchange

Lt. Gov Anthony Brown on the campaign trail.
Executive office of the governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) still takes credit for leading “the nation in implementing the Affordable Care Act.” Although that was on April 1st, he wasn’t joking. Maryland’s Democrat bosses long ago anointed the candidate from Prince George’s County as the Free State’s first black governor. Qualified or not.

This after the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board of Trustees, also on April 1st, decided to reconstruct the $125.5 million failed health insurance exchange Brown supposedly spent two years overseeing. Insiders say Maryland is leaning toward technology from Connecticut’s exchange. This option would cost at least $40 million.

That is nearly the price of a new hospital in Prince George’s County – down the drain.

Maryland was one of 14 states to build its own health insurance marketplace and has been one of the worst performing in the country.

A couple of commentators on the Post website put it like this: “$125M down the drain and no one held accountable. This was the one important thing Brown was put in charge to handle and it is a fiasco. For this he will probably become our next Governor, welcome to Maryland.”

“Accountability is not a word known in the Democrats vocabulary.”

Montgomery County’s Doug Gansler is the closest candidate to Brown in the polls. Gansler has attempted to hold Brown responsible for his health care failure. One criticism from Gansler is Brown hurt people … “from the immigrant communities who desperately need health care.”

Gansler is the states attorney general. He should know Obamacare is not available to many in the immigrant communities.

Since Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) has been silent, or ignored, on health care, she is looking pretty good on the subject.

The way the Dems in the back room have it figured, Brown will have won the primary before an oversight report is issued this summer showing how bad he and Democrat bosses botched this plan. In fact, what Maryland did was similar to what Oregon did. The difference was, according to political observer Barry Rascovar, Oregon has a two-party government that forced accountability.

“Here’s what a forensic analysis of Maryland’s failed healthcare sign-up effort is likely to show:

• Gov. Martin O’Malley and Brown created the exchange as an independent agency unshackled from the state’s formal procurement process. Support services and the normal chain of command within state government were lacking.
• Brown and Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein never gave the project the intense oversight and strong, authoritative leadership it needed.
• They hired the wrong contractor.
• No one was riding herd on the contractor.
• The state’s IT gurus picked off-the-shelf software to save money and time, software that never had been used in this way.
• There was no back-up plan in case Plan A failed (as it did).
• Quality assurance and system integration were lacking. There was no general manager and no effective tracking system.
• There was no exhaustive trial period built into the schedule.
• There was a lack of clear and honest communication up and down the line. Transparency continues to be a problem.

Oregon hired a contractor found the Executive Steering Committee leading the project — similar to Maryland’s oversight panel co-chaired by Brown and Sharfstein – made many of the errors above. They and their cronies were fired.

However, Oregon Republicans could pressure Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) into looking beyond political considerations. That doesn’t happen in Maryland.

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