O'Malley, Brown careers at stake with Obamacare exchange

Post report shows leaders were AWOL as things went south

January 13, 2014|By Brian Griffiths

The Washington Post ran a story yesterday  from inside of the Maryland health care exchange detailing how top government leaders knew for over a year before it went live that the exchange had serious technical problems. And for Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, it's an inside story they probably wish was never told.

 Three distinct things were made very clear from the story;

  • The people operating the system had absolutely no idea what they were trying to accomplish with the exchange;
  • There was absolutely nobody within the state government that wanted to take responsibility and ownership of the project; and,
  • The Governor and the Lt. Governor were made aware of the problems with the system and did absolutely nothing about it.

The last one is key for the political futures of Messrs. O'Malley and Brown, though the lieutenant governor is the one with the more serious problem.

 It was with the utmost pomp, circumstance, and fanfare that Governor O'Malley trumped the passage of Obamacare in 2010 by pledging that Maryland would be at the forefront of innovation and effectiveness in its state level implementation. To that end, O'Malley put Brown in charge of its implementation.

What the Post story shows is that Brown's "work" on the implementation of the Obamacare exchanges was limited to gladhanding and speechifying about how awesome the exchange was. As we all know at this point, that certainly was not the case.

The quote that is going to haunt Brown throughout the rest of this campaign was the one from Senator Barbara Mikulski that was quoted in an email from Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein to disgraced exchange project leader Rebecca Pearce: "While we’re fighting to save Obamacare, we know that in Maryland we have a health exchange that’s ready to go because of Anthony Brown."

Notwithstanding the fact that Sharfstein's emphasis was on the political implications of failure and not actually failing, that quote is going to be the albatross around Brown's neck. The office of lieutenant governor is very limited in scope and power. Basically, lieutenant governors get to do whatever governors ask them to do. Maryland's Exchange was the one major project that Brown has had during his term. And what we discovered was that Brown took no ownership and displayed no leadership throughout the project development.

O'Malley will have to answer for his role in this later, most likely when asked why he bequeathed the entire project to his lieutenant governor who seemed like he couldn't be bothered to work on it.

Brown is now going to have to do a pretty good job selling Marylanders on the idea that he actually will do the work that is necessary to be a governor.

--Brian Griffiths is a co-founder and contributing editor for Red Maryland, which has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007. He is chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans. and has worked on and advised numerous local, state and federal campaigns. His Red Maryland posts appear here regularly.

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