'It's not a lie if you believe it' [Commentary]

Marylanders need a reality check when it comes to the administration's handling of the Affordable Care Act

January 29, 2014|By David R. Craig

It's time for a reality check. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act and subsequent Maryland Health Connection website is still a woeful disaster. And despite recent assurances by state officials that the exchange is "functional for most citizens," the reality is that the system is not fixed — and far worse is the attitude of the administration.

My criticism of the events since the Oct. 1 rollout will surely be labeled as just more opposition doom and gloom. Well, rest assured, it is anything but that. It is black and white, dollars and cents reality.

The facts are there for all to see. It has now been revealed by The Sun and the Washington Post that the administration knew about glitches in the website long before it was introduced. There were issues between the website's lead contractor — in North Dakota of all places — and the subcontractors. The administration's health care exchange director resigned just weeks after the rollout. The administration's point man on the rollout, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was supposedly overseeing this process for the past three years, either turned a blind eye or was just blind to what was going on.

And in the height of arrogance, Lieutenant Governor Brown came before state legislators and refused to even apologize to the thousands of Marylanders for the time wasted on the exchange website, let alone the fact that these citizens are still walking around without health care.

Maybe the lieutenant governor really believed his assurances that the website would work. This reminds one of the neurotic, George Costanza character on "Seinfeld," who said, "It's not a lie if you believe it."

The truth is, people who have signed up on Maryland's exchange may not have their coverage in place for the first few months, and some are being encouraged to enroll in the Maryland Health Insurance Plan designed for high-risk applicants.

In the meantime, people on my campaign staff discovered a glitch in the website program that takes applicants to "navigators" in other states. So if you put in a Baltimore zip code, you will more than likely wind up talking to someone in Delaware, Pennsylvania or Virginia — after a few hours on hold.

Today, more than three months after the fact, the site is really not much better than it was the day it froze on thousands of Marylanders. That is the reality.

Yes, people are getting insured through Medicaid, but that is not why Maryland was given over $160 million to set up an exchange.

What we need are leaders who will deliver common-sense strategies to fix this mess. Sadly, it is time for the adults to take over.

That is why our campaign called for the state to direct applicants to the insurance companies whose knowledgeable brokers will help citizens find the right health insurance plan — a proposal that has since been implemented. Applicants are still able to get the ACA insurance offered on the exchange and still able to get subsidies and tax credits.

We have also called for the state to redirect the $150 million earmarked to promote this failed site to instead tell people that the ACA in fact, does allow for them to go directly to the insurance companies for ACA plans.

So instead of empowering bureaucracy, we would be empowering individuals to make health care affordable and accessible.

These ideas and proposals have nothing to do with repeal of Obamacare or keeping people from getting insurance. It is about doing the right thing for all Marylanders.

All of this goes to the bigger issue of a culture among leaders in Annapolis who believe they do not have to answer to anyone but themselves.

This is the culture of one-party rule that allows budgets to be balanced with money hijacked from designated funds and then by inventing more taxes to the point where businesses and citizens are forced to move to other states.

If anything should be learned from this Obamacare, Martin O'Malley and Anthony Brown debacle it is this: We are well past the time for wishful thinking. It is time to answer the indifference of "business as usual" year with real-world solutions. That is the reality. And it needs to be checked.

David Craig is the Harford County Executive and a Republican candidate for governor. His email address is david@davidcraig.com.

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