By Barry Rascovar, for Maryland Reporter.com
Accountability is sorely lacking when it comes to Marylands botched rollout of Obamacare. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is nowhere to be found when tough questions are asked. Gov. Martin OMalley deflects whos at fault inquiries, focusing instead on getting the deeply flawed software partly operable.
The computer systems main contractor, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, blames its prime subcontractor, who in turn accuses Noridian a healthcare services company, not an IT firm of incompetence and conning the state. Given that Noridian has received $65 million to construct a failed system, the subcontractor may have a point.
No Probe Planned
Perhaps Health Secretary Josh Sharfstein will decide in April or May to pull the plug on this IT horror show and start all over with a proven system from another state or join the federal healthcare sign-up exchange. That will cost a pretty penny.
But no one seems in a hurry to find out who screwed up.
Democratic state lawmakers have put off till the summer a Department of Legislative Services analysis of what went wrong. That fits nicely with their support of Browns campaign to succeed OMalley. It will be a long time after the June 24 primary before that DLS report surfaces.
Those same lawmakers tried to ignore the ongoing scandal during the current General Assembly session, but public pressure led to a series of hearings that deal with fixing the system rather than assessing blame. This helps Brown immensely, since hes most likely to be fingered as the state official who was asleep at the switch.
Republican Rep. Andy Harris wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to probe Marylands waste of a quarter-billion federal dollars on a nearly inoperable system but thats a political stunt by a tea party Republican who is becoming a nattering nabob of negativism.
Meanwhile, the OMalley-Brown healthcare exchange continues to limp along with 29,000 Marylanders enrolled in private health plans just one-sixth of the way to Browns previously stated goal of 180,000 and one-fifth of the way toward OMalleys 150,000 sign-up goal.
Its a mess, the worst waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. Yet no one is launching a probe. Its all being handled with kid gloves and diplomacy so as not to hurt Browns election bid or OMalleys longshot run for the White House.
Needing an impartial report
Whats needed is the equivalent of the Preston Report. Back in 1985, Maryland suffered a calamitous collapse of its privately insured savings and loan industry. It cost the state and S&L depositors hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gov. Harry Hughes and lawmakers created the Office of Special Counsel to probe all aspects of the events leading up to the S&L crisis. A prestigious Baltimore attorney, Wilbur (Woody) Preston, and a small team of his associates produced a package of legislative reforms and a 600-page report that detailed what went wrong and why. It was a honest and thorough report.
Thats whats required now an impartial dissection of this costly embarrassment by someone willing to lay out the facts without worrying about whether the blame falls on the lieutenant governor, the governor, the health secretary or the IT vendors.
How much of the blame belongs to OMalley, who ultimately is responsible for what goes on in his administration? This was, after all, the most important initiative the state has undertaken in ages.
How much of the blame for this healthcare fiasco sits on Browns shoulders?
Hes made a big deal of his leadership on this reform, though hes recently tried to weasel out by claiming he was only in charge of the legislation (also severely flawed) setting up the exchange.
Brown clearly was a figurehead leader a general who showed up for the public meetings but left everything to his underlings. Even when he said he learned of the computer snafus, he apparently failed to sound the alarm.
Since Democratic lawmakers arent willing to ask the tough questions before the gubernatorial primary, and the governor has shown no eagerness to create a special panel to probe this scandal, we may never learn enough to reach a conclusion.
Even the DLS report is likely to be scrubbed of any finger-pointing at state leaders. Thats especially true if Brown wins the June 24 Democratic primary. Top Democrats in the legislature will circle the protective wagons around the presumptive governor.
What a mess.
We will glean quite a bit about the exchanges IT failures from the competing lawsuits filed by Noridian and its prime subcontractor, EngagePoint. But that wont lift the fog surrounding actions of healthcare exchange leaders, the governor and the lieutenant governor.
Sadly, this is one mystery that may never be solved.
Barry Rascovars compendium of columns can be found at