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Md. health exchange launches mobile app

The "Enroll MHC" from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. (Image from MHBE).

The “Enroll MHC” from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. (Image from MHBE).

A new app will let Marylanders shop for coverage on the state’s health insurance exchange from their tablets and smartphones — a feature officials hope will encourage those who still lack coverage to enroll.

The “Enroll MHC” app can be downloaded for free from the App store (for Apple products) and the Google Play Store (for Droid devices), and will allow users to apply for coverage, compare various plans and even use their devices’ cameras to take pictures of and upload the documents they need for verification.

The app, which is linked to the exchange website, can also tell users whether they may be eligible for Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program, tax credits and cost-sharing, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced Monday.

All of the app’s features will be available by late October, and the open-enrollment period for 2017 plans will run from Nov. 1 until Jan 31.

The increased convenience of the mobile app will hopefully spur more people to enroll, officials said.

“We know for a lot of people, their phone is their internet,” MHBE spokesman Andrew Ratner said Monday.

More than one-third of visitors to the exchange’s website have used mobile devices, according to the exchange.

The exchange reported in May that approximately 240,000 Marylanders were still eligible for private insurance as well as some sort of financial aid.

But as more people sign up, finding and enrolling the remaining holdouts becomes more and more difficult. That’s part of the challenge faced by “connectors” like the nonprofit Seedco, which works with the exchange to enroll new individuals on the upper and middle Eastern Shore.

Seedco’s navigators have reached out to churches, small businesses, local workforce development boards and other organizations to find residents and encourage them to sign up.

The new app is likely to assist those efforts, said Program Director Mark Romaninsky. “The more accessible the process is … the more people can get the benefit of the program,” he said.

In addition to the app, MHBE will begin redesigning its website in October to make it easier to navigate. Based on a consumer research effort during the last open enrollment period, the site will feature simpler language and clearer directions, according to the exchange.

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