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Never a dull moment for the health exchange

Enrollment on Maryland’s health exchange ticked up over the past week — a total of 22,512 people had bought private plans as of Jan. 11, up from 20,358 as of Jan. 4.

Friday’s enrollment report also includes more detailed enrollment data from the federal government. This information is released monthly, whereas the state’s data is released weekly.

As of Dec. 28, a total of 18,257 Marylanders had enrolled in a private plan via Maryland Health Connection. According to the feds’ newly released info, more older people enrolled than younger people, “silver-level” plans were bought most frequently and 55 percent of enrollees were women.

Here are the enrollment numbers, broken down by age:

Younger than 18 years:  922 enrollees

Ages 18 – 25:  1,562 enrollees

                Ages 26 – 34:  3,359 enrollees

                Ages 35 – 44:  3,016 enrollees

                Ages 45 – 54:  4,188 enrollees

Ages 55 – 64:  4,994 enrollees

                65 or older:  216 enrollees

The age breakdown is important because in order to keep premiums down, the exchanges must enroll enough healthy people — they pay more into the system than they take out. And obviously, younger people tend to be healthier than older people.

The report also mentions the latest policy change/update/amendment — whatever you want to call it — to the exchange, which is expected to affect the numbers.

Officials have announced two options for providing retroactive coverage to the hundreds or thousands of people who tried but were unable to secure health insurance through the exchange. If and when those options go into effect, the enrollment numbers could jump, but it’s unclear how much.

The first option for providing bridge coverage is a piece of legislation — which has not yet been voted on in the General Assembly — that would temporarily enroll those individuals in a state insurance program, the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, until they are able to squirm their way into a private plan.

The second option is an agreement with the four insurance companies that offer private plans on the exchange. The companies agreed to provide coverage (retroactive to Jan. 1) to people who can demonstrate that they tried enrolling in a plan by Dec. 31 but were stymied by technical problems on the exchange. The companies will allow those people to sign up in the plan of their choice — but they have to take action soon. The deadline to register for retroactive coverage is this coming Tuesday at 5 p.m. People in this situation should contact the Customer Call Center at 1-855-642-8572.

This option is expected to cover the majority of the 200 to 5,000 people who are in this situation. But because some people will surely slip through the cracks, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown say it’s still crucial to pass the MHIP option so that those voters — ahem, I mean residents — won’t be left out.