Gubernatorial candidates react to Maryland health care exchange upgrade plan

Gubernatorial candidates Attorney General Doug Gansler and founder of Change Maryland Larry Hogan took advantage of the state's decision to spend $40- to $50 million to upgrade Maryland's health care exchange, issuing statements condemning the state's botched rollout of the Maryland Health Connection website.

 The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to not fix Maryland's faulty website, and to instead, purchase a "proven" IT platform that was used in Connecticut. 

READ: Board votes to upgrade Maryland Health Exchange using Conn. IT platform

Republican challenger Larry Hogan called the move the state's "second worst business decision." 

In a statement, Hogan said: 

Even with new technology, continuing to operate the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is Martin O’Malley’s second worst business decision.  Paying tens of millions of dollars for another state’s platform won’t cure the hopeless mismanagement by Anthony Brown and the leadership of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the very people who have already wasted more than 125 million of our hard-earned tax dollars.

A better approach would be to immediately shut down the Maryland Exchange, saving tens of millions of dollars which could be used jumpstart our economy and help uninsured residents and small businesses obtain coverage through private insurance or the federal exchange.”  Hogan also noted that states such as Virginia opted not to spend any money developing an exchange yet boast enrollment rates far greater than those of Maryland.

Attorney General Doug Gansler's statement focused on calling out Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown who took the lead on implementing the Maryland Health Connection website: 

Tonight’s decision to abandon a $261 million broken website is the direct result of Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s failure to fight for the Affordable Care Act. He put spin and posturing ahead of hard work and health care, and the proof is in the pudding: Maryland is more than 130,000 enrollees short of Brown’s own goal, yet he’s called it a success. If this is his definition of success, I don’t want to know what failure looks like. Perhaps he should look to President Obama as a model of effective leadership: In the last six months, the President rolled up his sleeves, got the federal website functioning, and spent just about every waking moment asking the American people to buy health insurance. What has Lt. Governor Brown done besides hand out glossy brochures bragging about his leadership?

Hopefully in adopting Connecticut’s platform, the state will move responsibility to someone else who can finally get the job done. I hope to see more transparency and accountability moving forward, and an accounting of the money already spent.

O'Malley and Brown issued a joint statement, ahead of speaking with reporters in Annapolis: 

Thanks to the incredible hard work and commitment of hundreds of consumer assistance workers, brokers, carriers, Exchange staff, and many other stakeholders -- Maryland exceeded our goal and has so far enrolled more than 295,000 people during this first open enrollment period. That means a lot to these families who have the security and peace-of-mind that comes with having quality, affordable health care. And it means a lot for the long-term affordability of our healthcare system.

The hard work of getting so many Marylanders enrolled was made even tougher because Maryland’s health exchange website did not meet expectations -- a source of great frustration, especially for those who were trying to obtain healthcare for the very first time.

Our Administration has not succeeded at every first try, but we have never given up. We learn from both success and failure. The vendors we hired failed to build us the platform they promised. So now that the first open enrollment period has ended, we’ve decided to upgrade our website.

The Health Exchange Board selected a partner with a proven track record to upgrade our website using a platform that has an established record of success. We’re confident that this partner will have the website upgraded by the time the next open enrollment period begins in November.

The Maryland Health Exchange is much more than a website. It’s the board, policies, connector entities, call center, other consumer assistance networks, staff, and many other aspects that have allowed the state to exceed its enrollment goal despite the IT challenges. All of this will all remain in place. The website is one piece of the Exchange, and that piece is being upgraded."