WOODLAWN – The battle for the Democratic nomination for governor of Maryland intensified Thursday over the handling of the state’s badly flawed health exchange website.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur debated on WOLB-AM’s Larry Young Morning Show in the last scheduled debate of the primary campaign.
Brown, who led the state’s implementation of health care reform, said while there were technical problems, the state still exceeded its 260,000 enrollment goal when Medicaid enrollments are included.
“So if you measure success by enrollment, we were successful,” Brown said. “Was it challenged? Absolutely. For the second open enrollment in November, we’ll adopt technology from Connecticut, and we’ll ensure that not only do we meet our enrollment goals, but it will be a more seamless user experience.”
Gansler, however, said Brown is the only person who is calling the state’s health care enrollment a success, saying millions of dollars were “flushed down the toilet.”
“He was nowhere to be seen,” Gansler said. “He put on his running shoes and ran away.”
But Gansler had some responsibility for the rollout, too, Brown said. He said Gansler had a seat on a council that was coordinating health care reform and never attended meetings.
“He said that he had no idea about how we settled on the contractors we did, but his office helped scope out the procurement that led to the vendors that were selected,” Brown said. “Look, we all had a responsibility. I didn’t run away.”
Gansler disputed that he could have any knowledge of the procurement process.
“I had no idea how the vendors were picked, because it was done in a closed room without any competition and without any transparency,” Gansler said.”
The radio debate happened in the same week that Gansler has stepped up his attack on Brown’s handling of the health exchange website in television ads.
Mizeur avoided talking about the health exchange problems. Instead, she spoke of health care initiatives she worked for as a delegate. Specifically, she mentioned working with a conservative lawmaker to find a common goal to help pass a bill in 2011 to expand free family planning to low-income women in Maryland.
Taxes also were brought up during the debate. Mizeur said she supports bringing back a tax on people who make more than $1 million a year, a tax that expired in Maryland at the end of 2010. Gansler highlighted his corporate tax cut as a tool for luring businesses back to Maryland. Brown said he would form a commission in his first 100 days in office to study tax reform in the state. Brown also said tax increases during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration have helped make bigger investments in schools and for future transportation infrastructure projects like the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the Red Line in Baltimore.
“It doesn’t happen on its own. Marylanders were asked to give more so that we can make investment in infrastructure and in our people and that’s what the last difficult eight years have been about, the progress that we made,” Brown said.