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‘Special enrollments’ in health coverage drive up total

Several thousand more Marylanders have enrolled in health insurance since the open enrollment period ended about two months ago.

Individuals who experience a “qualifying event” — they get married, have a child, switch jobs or experience certain other life events — are eligible to enroll at any point. From October of last year through May 31, a total of 72,207 individuals had enrolled in private health insurance plans.

Including Medicaid enrollment, the total number of Marylanders who had enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act as of May 31 was 372,517 people.

When open enrollment ended on March 31, about 63,000 people had enrolled in a private plan via the exchange. Total enrollment in Maryland, including Medicaid, was 295,077 people at the end of March.

It’s unclear how many of the enrollees were previously uninsured; many of them likely had bare-bones coverage prior to the ACA but are still counted as “new enrollees.”

Officials with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange say they expect the number of enrollments to increase gradually over the next few months and then jump again when the next open enrollment period begins on Nov. 15.

Medicaid enrollment is year-round. Private health plans, however, are only sold on the exchange during defined enrollment periods, unless someone experiences a qualifying life event.

“Special enrollments” are also permitted for people who turn 26, (and are therefore no longer eligible to remain covered by a parent’s plan); people who become newly eligible for Medicaid (because their income was reduced); and people who become ineligible for Medicaid (if their income increased).

Of those individuals who enrolled in private health plans on the exchange, the vast majority (67,800 people) chose plans sold by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

The second most popular carrier is Kaiser Permanente (which enrolled 3,560 people), followed by Evergreen Health Cooperative (525 ) and UnitedHealthcare (322 ).

Most of the enrollees are middle-age — 25.3 percent are in the 55-64 age group, while 23.6 percent are in the 45-54 age group.