Updated: More variations on Maryland Health Connection

I’ve grown accustomed to the variability of each weekly enrollment report from Maryland Health Connection. Every week, something new happens with the exchange — some policy amendment, some different method for counting enrollees. Those changes are reflected in the Friday enrollment numbers, and they make it difficult to draw apples-to-apples comparisons.

This week, for example, the enrollment report says that 1,407 households registered for the retroactive coverage option. Let’s break all that new stuff down.

Brown at health exchange hearing

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, center, listens at a health exchange hearing. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

The retroactive coverage option is an agreement worked out between state officials and the four insurance companies that offer plans on MarylandHealthConnection.gov. It allows people who tried but were unable to sign up for coverage by Dec. 31 due to technical issues with the website to enroll in the plan of their choice with coverage retroactive to Jan. 1.

People had to register for that option by Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.
Consumers are only eligible for retroactive coverage if they can prove that they tried but failed to enroll by Dec. 31 because of problems with the exchange.

So that’s new. But there was something else different about this section of the report: Exchange officials referred to the number of “households,” as opposed to the number of “Marylanders,” which is how they usually report the enrollment figures.

I asked officials on Friday if reporting “households” instead of “Marylanders” was intentional, or if the two words should be interpreted as interchangeable.

I got my answer at a meeting of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange board of directors on Monday. The number of registrants does refer to households, rather than individuals, because people who registered did so on behalf of themselves and their families.

The weekly report also says that as of Jan. 18, a total of 25,177 Marylanders have enrolled in private health plans through the exchange (a weekly increase of 2,665 people).

I also asked if any of the 1,407 “retroactive option households” were counted in the 25,177 total. Dori Henry, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, said they were not.

I also asked for clarification about what “registered” really means. At the MHBE meeting on Monday, I learned that registering is the first step in a multi-step process for getting retroactive coverage.

Consumers who thought they were eligible must have called the exchange’s Call Center by Jan. 21 and asked to sign up for the retroactive option — that counts as registering.

It does not mean, however, that those 1,407 people have been approved and are now actually enrolled in the plan.

State officials still have to go through and verify that those people are eligible for the option and send their information to insurers (which they must do by Feb. 7). Also, the consumers must pay their premiums for January and February by Feb. 15.

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