Guy Benson


Maryland is home to a disproportionately large population of bureaucrats and healthcare professionals, as well as a Democrat-controlled state government that has enthusiastically embraced Obamacare from the moment it passed in 2010. It is therefore something of a surprise that Maryland is also home to one of the country's most disastrous state-level Obamacare exchanges. Despite fresh assurances from Gov. Martin O'Malley that most of the website's troubles have been resolved (oops!), some members of his own party are opening contemplating a recommendation of jumping ship to the (also troubled) federal exchange:


The Saturday announcement comes at a critical time for O'Malley, who has been facing increasing criticism over the rollout of Obamacare in Maryland — recently from some in his own party. And though the site has been declared functional, it remains to be seen whether users will feel the same way...O'Malley's office did not go into detail about the technical obstacles that remain for the site, but said that the state would step up its marketing efforts to get more users on board before the end of March, when Americans without health insurance face a tax penalty. The state exchange, with its feuding contractors and prolonged technical problems, could become a political liability if still does not work, political observers said. For most top Maryland Democrats, widespread praise of the effort shifted into silence and quiet disappointment as the exchange struggled after its launch...Some in the party have begun sharpening criticism of the troubled online marketplace. On Friday, two Maryland congressmen urged the state to consider any means necessary to speed progress, including using the federal exchange to reach an estimated 800,000 uninsured residents.


The director of Maryland's broken exchange resigned last week after it emerged that she'd taken an email- and phone-free vacation in the Cayman Islands over Thanksgiving -- while her project was still experiencing a meltdown. Mary Katharine Ham marvels at the sheer audacity of this dereliction:


Pearce went out in style after spending $107 million on a site that still doesn’t work...It’s not like she had a vacation planned for right after the exchange launched assuming things would go fine, which would have been irresponsible enough. She waited until it failed, the heat got turned up on her staff, and then peaced out and claimed she had not e-mail or phone access. Because the Caribbean is so famously remote.


Pearce's exchange has signed up roughly 3,700 people thus far -- laughably short of its 150,000 enrollee goal. The same astounding scene just played out in Minnesota, except the "leader" in question hasn't mustered the dignity to step down:

Last month, while Minnesota's new health insurance exchange site was scrambling to fix glitches and under fire from critics, its director was on vacation. MNsure director April Todd-Malmlov took a two-week vacation to Costa Rica around Thanksgiving. Gov. Mark Dayton defended her right to take a pre-scheduled trip, but critics of the fledgling health insurance exchange pounced....MNsure's woes have continued into December, as some applicants still struggle to navigate system that was supposed to make shopping for health insurance easier and more affordable.


Thank heavens for her "right" to take a tropical vacation while the project she's overseen remains in crisis, failing many users. Just like it works in the private sector, right America? Meanwhile, in Oregon, local media reports are admonishing some consumers to bypass the state's Obamacare program to guarantee coverage on January 1 -- which is to say, the Beaver State's $330 million exchange remains in total shambles. I'll leave you with Jim Geraghty's round-up of state-by-state Obamacare enrollment totals. His bottom line: "Let’s make this simpler. The only states that have reached 10 percent of their enrollment goals are California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island; Kentucky is close." You read that right. Just six out of these 50 United States have achieved ten percent of their overall enrollment targets. The final deadline is March 31, after which the mandate tax kicks in. Some of the states in worst shape are governed by Democrats, putting the lie to the Left's pitiful "Republican obstructionism!" excuse. Click through for the full list.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography