Mary­land health ex­change opens for en­roll­ment to­day

Pe­riod to sign up for in­sur­ance runs un­til Jan. 31

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Mered­ith Cohn mcohn@balt­sun.com

The state’s on­line health ex­change opens to­day for en­roll­ment in 2017 health in­sur­ance plans.

Peo­ple who do not have cov­er­age through an em­ployer can re­view plans from four in­sur­ers and en­roll on the ex­change web­site, mary­land­health­con­nec­tion.gov.

Unit­edHealth­care, which cov­ered about 10 per­cent of en­rollees last year, pulled out of Mary­land’s ex­change and many other ex­changes around the coun­try. It will stop pro­vid­ing cov­er­age to those cur­rently in­sured at the end of the year.

This year, the ex­change also un­veiled a mo­bile app for search­ing and en­rolling.

For those who want in-per­son as­sis­tance choos­ing a plan and en­rolling, there are “nav­i­ga­tors” op­er­at­ing in store­front of­fices. A list of these of­fices, as well as bro­kers of­fer­ing en­roll­ment as­sis­tance around the state, is avail­able on the ex­change web­site. The ex­change also op­er­ates an as­sis­tance call cen­ter at 1-855-642-8572.

Last year, the ex­change en­rolled 163,000 peo­ple in pri­vate plans, an in­crease of 33 per­cent from the year be­fore. Premi­ums have in­creased this year, some by more than 30 per­cent, though ex­change of­fi­cials note many peo­ple qual­ify for fed­eral sub­si­dies. For oth­ers, of­fi­cials en­cour­age con­sumers to shop around and con­sider premi­ums as well as out-of-pocket costs.

The hefty in­creases have drawn crit­i­cism from foes of the Af­ford­able Care Act, who have re­peat­edly called for the law to be re­pealed. But this year, the in­creases have also lead to calls from the law’s sup­port­ers for fixes such as in­creased sub­si­dies.

This year is the ex­change’s fourth, and U.S. Cen­sus Bureau data shows the state’s unin­sured rate dropped to 6.6 per­cent in 2015 from 10.2 per­cent in 2013. Be­fore the Af­ford­able Care Act of 2010, about 14.5 per­cent were unin­sured, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from the Hill­top In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County.

Open en­roll­ment ends Jan. 31.

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