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Lt. Governor Brown’s MD Obamacare Exchange Excuses Fall Flat & He Won’t Apologize – January 18, 2014

Posted: January 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

markUncaphernewNot only do Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s explanations about his role in the Maryland Obamacare Health Exchange debacle fall flat, his excuses raise more questions than he answered.

According to Brown: “In retrospect, if I knew nine months ago what I’ve learned since the launch, I would have insisted on receiving the underlying documentation.”[[1]]

His response sounds like a student trying to explain away a bad grade with the explanation of: “I should have studied more and finished the assigned reading.”  Brown does not sound like a manager, let alone the potential chief executive of 78,000 employees.

More importantly, Brown is directly contradicted by the Washington Post’s detailed reporting.  After reviewing thousands of emails and documents, last Sunday thepaper found that Maryland officials were fully warned about looming problems:

“More than a year before Maryland launched its health insurance exchange, senior state officials failed to heed warnings that no one was ultimately accountable for the $170 million project and that the state lacked a plausible plan for how it would be ready by Oct. 1…..Even as Maryland’s health exchange was touted as a model for the nation, there were early warnings of missed deadlines, no one seemed to be fully in charge of the project, key leaders had quit, and there was feuding between contractors that led to lawsuits.”[[2]]

Yet even after the Post’s reporting, Brown continued to claim that he “was kept in the dark about the severity of the problems that led to the calamitous debut of the state’s online health marketplace.” [[3]]  Who does Brown allege was keeping him the dark?

The Post furnishes links to a number of documents that should have been on Brown’s “reading list” as “the leader of Maryland’s efforts to improve health care and Co-Chair of the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council” – as Brown’s campaign website for Governor continues to claim.

Maryland leaders were specifically informed in a November 1, 2012 report of the lack of co-operation among Maryland state agencies.  In choice language, the Department   of Legislative Services warned:  “there is considerable skepticism among many observers about whether the Federal data hub itself will be operable.” [[4]]

Over a year ago, auditors from an independent firm hired to review the project’s progress, BerryDunn, found that exchange officials were missing early deadlines to begin building the IT backbone for the public web site. They clearly warn:  “State staffing is very lean for a project of this size and complexity and there is a risk that it may not be sufficient to complete the necessary work prior to federal/state deadlines.”[[5]]

The very public litigation between Maryland’s two principal health exchange contactors Noridian and EngagePoint should have been another red flag for the Lt. Governor.[[6]]

Compare the Maryland Exchange to a home improvement project, if two of your contractors were suing each other in connection with their work on your project, would you need to insist “on receiving the underlying documentation” in order to know that your project faced serious problems?

Governor O’Malley’s own comments contradict the Lt. Governor’s claims of ignorance.  The Governor acknowledges that last June the state considered lettingthe federal government to take over part of the state’s troubled health exchange.  However O’Malley says the state officials were not convinced at that time that the federal website was going to work any better.”[[7]]

Last Tuesday, Brown testified before the legislature.  He was asked by Sen. Allan Kittleman whether he would apologize for the failed launch.  Brown declined to do so. Instead he said that constituents want progress on insuring more Marylanders, not apologies.

Brown was shown up later by Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland health secretary. Sharfstein said: “I apologize to the many Marylanders who have struggled with the website and thecall center, and I regret the anxiety experienced by individuals and families who are seeking health insurance and who have been frustrated in the efforts to obtain it.”

Sen. Kittleman commented later that he wished the lieutenant governor had said the same thing.  Echoing Kittleman response, ‘Bad move’ wrote the Sun’s Dan Rodricks of Brown’s refusal.

Elected officials, especially an executive, are expected to take responsibility for delivering services to the public.  Voters want more than noble intentions, they expect results.   Unlike Lt. Governors, Governors are expected to do more than just show up at photo opportunities.

Uncapher was Montgomery County Republican Chairman from 2008-2013, and is now the MCGOP Treasurer. Follow on twitter @Mark_Uncapher