Md. health ex­change launches new app

Aim is to help peo­ple who use mo­bile de­vices en­roll; web­site to be im­proved

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­

Mary­land health ex­change of­fi­cials have launched a new app specif­i­cally de­signed to help peo­ple en­roll in health in­surance on their phones and tablets. The move is a re­sponse to the high rate of peo­ple us­ing mo­bile de­vices — more than a third — to visit the state’s on­line mar­ket­place for health in­surance.

The free “En­roll MHC” app — avail­able in the App Store for iOS users and the Google Play Store for An­droid users — will be loaded with 2017 plans be­fore open en­roll­ment be­gins Nov. 1, of­fi­cials said. Those who need in­surance to be­gin in Jan­uary must en­roll by Dec. 15, though en­roll­ment con­tin­ues un­til Jan. 31.

The ex­change, cre­ated un­der the fed­eral Affordable Care Act, pro­vides a fo­rum for peo­ple with­out work­place in­surance to buy cov­er­age. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have bought pri­vate plans or en­rolled in Med­i­caid through Mary­land’s ex­change.

The ex­change suf­fered tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties so se­vere dur­ing the first en­roll­ment pe­riod in 2013 that the tech­nol­ogy was scrapped. Since then, there have been sev­eral en­roll­ment pe­ri­ods with­out ma­jor in­ci­dent and of­fi­cials say the em­pha­sis now is on find­ing those who still haven’t bought cov­er­age, de­spite a fed­eral penalty for not do­ing so, and im­prov­ing the con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ence on the web­site, Mary­landHealthCon­nec­

Some key tar­gets of the ex­change — young peo­ple, those with low in­comes, and African-Amer­i­cans and Lati­nos — de­pend more on their phones for on­line ac­cess than other groups, ac­cord­ing to ex­change of­fiA Mary­land state trooper was jus­ti­fied in cials. About 13 per­cent of Amer­i­cans with fa­tally shoot­ing a 30-year-old man last year an­nual house­hold in­come of less than dur­ing a strug­gle out­side a Wal-Mart in $30,000 rely on their phones, while 1 Ce­cil County, pros­e­cu­tors said. per­cent of house­holds earn­ing $75,000 or The Ce­cil County state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice more do. cleared Trooper Daryl Brack­ett, 29, in the

The ex­change also will re­design the shoot­ing death of Charles Hall of North web­site this year to use sim­pler lan­guage East in Au­gust 2015. and pro­vide bet­ter di­rec­tions to speed the “The state finds no crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing en­roll­ment process, ex­change of­fi­cials said. by Trooper Brack­ett, and we con­sider this

Last year, ex­change of­fi­cials said, some mat­ter closed,” Deputy State’s At­tor­ney peo­ple were flum­moxed by an en­roll­ment Steven Tros­tle wrote in a let­ter dated Nov. ques­tion about how many peo­ple were in 15, 2015. It was ob­tained Mon­day by The their house­hold be­cause they had non­famiBal­ti­more Sun through a Mary­land Pub­lic ly room­mates, for ex­am­ple. In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

The re­designed web­site, which will State po­lice said they would not comde­but in Oc­to­ber, “will be a lit­tle friend­lier,” ment on the mat­ter, cit­ing a pend­ing with more terms and steps ex­plained, said law­suit. The agency did not dis­cuss the An­drew Rat­ner, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and na­ture of the suit. strate­gic ini­tia­tives at Mary­land Health Brack­ett told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was pa­trolBen­e­fit Ex­change, the quasi-govern­men­tal ling the North East Plaza shop­ping cen­ter agency that over­sees the on­line mar­ke­ton Aug. 21, 2015, when he saw Hall and place. pulled up, ac­cord­ing to a syn­op­sis of the

Rat­ner told mem­bers of the ex­change in­ter­view, also ob­tained through the Pub­lic board Mon­day that the com­bi­na­tion of the In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest. mo­bile app and the re­designed web­site Brack­ett said he ran Hall’s name and should make it eas­ier to en­roll, though he found an open war­rant, then ap­proached couldn’t say if users would re­quire less help Hall as the man was load­ing items into his from the­­cen­ter,whichisheav­ilystaffed dur­ing en­roll­ment. The ef­fects will be Hall “started fum­bling in his pock­ets for tracked, he said, adding that when Con­nec­this keys and jumped in his car,” Brack­ett icut’s ex­change in­tro­duced a sim­i­lar app, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors. peo­ple browsed or be­gan en­roll­ment on He said he blocked the car door and tried their phones but didn’t al­ways com­plete the to pull Hall out. He said Hall was try­ing to process through the app. put the car into drive as he was or­der­ing

Ex­change of­fi­cials plan to ad­ver­tise the him out. app and web­site on so­cial me­dia and in Brack­ett said he hit the man’s arms to pro­mo­tional events as open en­roll­ment break Hall’s grip on the steer­ing wheel. ramps up. Brack­ett told in­ves­ti­ga­tors the two men

strug­gled and the trooper pulled out his


Free­man A. Hrabowski III, pres­i­dent of the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County, de­liv­ers his State of the Uni­ver­sity ad­dress at Re­triever Ac­tiv­i­ties Cen­ter on the UMBC campus. The ad­dress, ti­tled “UMBC at 50: Re­flec­tions and As­pi­ra­tions,” was the cul­mi­na­tion of a four-day cel­e­bra­tion of the uni­ver­sity’s an­niver­sary. Hrabowski has been the pres­i­dent of UMBC since 1992.

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