By Michael Dresser
5:43 PM EDT, April 8, 2014
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler stepped up his barrage of attack's on the O'Malley administration handling of the development of the state's health insurance exchange, calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the web site's failed launch.
Gansler, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor against Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, called for that investigator to be given subpoena powers to examine what the attorney general called "mismanagement, malfeasance and waste" in the establishment of the failed exchange. He called for the investigator to be given 60 days to compile a report -- a schedule that could lead to its completion just before the June 24 primary if the probe started almost immediately.
“So many people in Maryland have been left without health insurance as a result of this $261-million failure,” Gansler's statement said. “We must ask tough questions now so we don’t find ourselves in the same predicament come the next enrollment period."
The Gansler campaign took a shot at the General Assembly's oversight of the health exchange, calling the oversight committee it set up this session a "kangaroo court."
“The state’s self-proclaimed point person on the exchange, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, never bothered to show up, and the oversight committee never asked tough questions about what went wrong," said Del Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, Gansler's running mate.
Gansler pointed to independent reviews launched in several other states that had troubled launches of their health care exchanges, including Oregon and Vermont.
Brown has become a target of Gansler's attacks on the exchange because of the high-profile role the lieutenant governor was assigned in implementing President Obama's health reform law.
O'Malley has said his administration is responsible for the failed web site, which his administration is now moving to replace. But the governor has put much of the blame on software provided by IBM Curam and has vowed to take the state's contractor to court.
Gansler has said that his office does not have the authority to launch an investigation of its own to determine who should be held accountable. Nevertheless, he said his office is "doing all we can to explore what remedies are available to recover taxpayer funds, including filing an action for damages against the contractors responsible for building the exchange web site."
The governor's office issued a comment in response: "Even though we surpassed our enrollment goals, we're still focused on getting Marylanders enrolled in quality, affordable health coverage -- we're not going to waste time responding to attacks from political campaigns."
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