No emails from Brown on health exchange

As Maryland officials touted their implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown was front and center — proudly describing the state as a national leader in preparing for the overhaul.

But even though Brown was helping to lead the health care effort, he wrote no emails to the state workers overseeing development of the state's online health insurance marketplace — at least none that his office deemed fit for public release.

The Baltimore Sun investigated the botched Oct. 1 rollout of the Maryland health insurance exchange, and reporters requested emails sent to and from Brown on the issue.

For the month before the launch and the month after, Brown's office produced no email correspondence with members of the exchange, a quasi-independent state agency, or officials from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about the website or its lead contractor.

In some cases, the office claimed executive privilege — which according to state documents "shields records made in connection with the deliberative decision-making process used by high executive officials." His spokesman, Jared Smith, couldn't immediately say how many messages were withheld.

Smith also said Brown participated in phone calls and in-person meetings during that time regarding the exchange — particularly after the launch. But he said Brown's role was not to manage the day-to-day technological development of the exchange website.

Brown's office did produce fewer than two dozen emails to and from his top two staff members, including at least two messages about upcoming conference calls. Most of the remaining emails were updates that the exchange was providing publicly each week on enrollment.

In a message 18 days after the website's launch, state Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein, who has co-chaired the panel overseeing health care reform in the state with Brown for the past few years, asked if Brown's top staffers could forward an email to their boss because "I don't have his direct email."

Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. Walker

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