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Md. health exchange to open gradually

Maryland’s health insurance exchange will launch gradually over a period of 10 days in November, rather than all at once on Nov. 15, as originally planned.

The “soft launch” timeline was announced at a meeting of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange board on Tuesday. Officials said unveiling the website gradually will help minimize any potential issues that may arise with the new system.

The revamped website, Maryland Health Connection, will open Nov. 9 for browsing, but users will not be able to actually enroll in a plan until several days later, depending on how they want to access the system.

On Nov. 15, the health exchange will host an enrollment fair, where trained support staff will help attendees sign up for coverage. About 25 more of these events will be held across the state. Officials did not immediately specify the time and location of these events, nor did they say how many Marylanders would be able to attend each one.

Then, on Nov. 16, the customer support call center will begin accepting applications from people who want to enroll by phone.

On Nov. 17, all authorized insurance brokers will be able to access the system and help their clients enroll. Trained “navigators” will also be allowed on the system at this point to help Marylanders enroll.

The following day, case workers at local health and social service departments will be allowed on the system to enroll consumers.

Not until Nov. 19 will the website go live for all Marylanders to browse plans, plug in their personal information, receive personal subsidy calculations and purchase coverage.

Originally, the health exchange was scheduled to go fully live on Nov. 15 for individuals and small businesses in the state to purchase coverage.

As The Daily Record reported last month, board chairman Dr. Joshua Sharfstein had hinted that a soft launch was likely. However, that final decision was not announced publicly until Tuesday.

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.