Anthony Brown Finds a Fall Guy
This week, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown has been dodging questions about the embarrassing rollout of Maryland’s healthcare exchange web site but it looks as though he has found a fall guy for the failure.
It was reported yesterday that Rebecca Pearce, the executive director of Maryland’s Obamacare exchange took a week long Caribbean vacation while the Web site remained a shambles. Somehow the Lieutenant Governor who was visibly put in charge of the healthcare launch was unaware of this until after the fact.
Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, took a seven-day trip to the Caribbean isle with her family and could not be reached by phone, email or text, officials confirmed Friday.
She was away while lawmakers in Annapolis were pressing for answers on why the $70 million online insurance marketplace was beset by technical glitches two months after it launched and why enrollment continued to lag far behind other states.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who led Maryland’s program to implement the Affordable Care Act, said in an interview Friday that he did not know Pearce planned to leave town until she was already gone.
Brown called her absence during the week of Thanksgiving a “very” big problem. “We just launched a staff surge and we needed all hands on deck,” he said. “Now is not the time to take a vacation.”
While her vacation probably had little to do with progress (or lack thereof) on fixing the site, the optics are horrible. Now Rebecca Pearce has resigned.
The director of Maryland’s health insurance exchange resigned Friday amid ongoing technical problems and questions about a Caribbean vacation she took while the online marketplace faltered.
Rebecca Pearce, hired two years ago to build a $107 million exchange, leaves her post as officials struggle to repair the system that launched Oct. 1.
The exchange’s rocky start and low enrollment have become ammunition for political attacks on Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was tasked by the governor with overseeing the state’s implementation of the federal health care reform law.
The board of the Maryland Heath Benefit Exchange accepted Pearce’s resignation during an emergency session Friday night. In a statement, Joshua Sharfstein, the state health secretary and board chairman, said Pearce “worked tirelessly and with tremendous dedication.”
Pearce, whose starting salary in 2011 was $175,000, will be replaced by on an interim basis by Carolyn Quattrocki, a top adviser to Gov. Martin O’Malley.
This will certainly give Brown’s opponent, Attorney General Doug Gansler more ammunition with which to attack Brown as he did recently with this ad.
Pearce’s resignation gives Brown an opportunity to shift blame, but opponents will still point to his lack of leadership as the problem.