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Md. makes last push during final days of open enrollment

Vincent DeMarco

Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland leaders, officials and advocates started their crucial final push to sign up the state’s uninsured on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces Tuesday, with just 10 days remaining in the open enrollment period.

The state’s enrollment numbers have been up from last year, but leaders and advocates are making a push to finish strong with 18 locations across the state hosting “Last Chance” events to help individuals enroll this weekend.

At a press conference at the Annapolis office of MedChi, the state medical society, Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, praised this year’s enrollment while encouraging more to sign up.

“We have enrolled over 400,000 Marylanders in the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Everyone who is eligible should enroll.”

Michelle Eberly, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

Michelle Eberly, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

To date, the new enrollments on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange are up 14 percent from the same period last year and overall enrollments are up 3 percent, said Michele Eberle, the incoming executive director of the exchange.

Eberle called the upcoming “Last Chance” weekend a “critical weekend” for the state’s enrollment numbers.

The 2018 enrollment period is 45 days, half of what it was for 2017. But the exchange utilized the same advertising budget as it did last year, increasing its saturation, particularly in key demographics, like African-American and Latino communities and the state’s rural areas.

“The Affordable Care Act is real important to us,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the state NAACP. “We suffer more diseases as a result of not having health care.”

Stansbury urged ministers and churches throughout the state to look out for their congregations by encouraging them to seek insurance coverage this weekend.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said getting more Marylanders insured is crucial for the success of Maryland’s hospital system, which is incentivized to reduce hospitalizations. Those hospitalizations are more likely to increase when the uninsured seek health care coverage.

“With the Affordable Care Act, the state of Maryland came down to having less than 6 percent (of people) without insurance,” Busch said. “It guarantees that our hospitals get reimbursed.”

Maryland’s enrollment process faced challenges leading up to enrollment this year. This year the Maryland Insurance Administration approved significant rate increases for individual insurance plans.

Those rates increased further when President Donald Trump halted cost sharing reduction subsidy payments to insurers. But that also increased the amount of tax subsidies most consumers receive by increasing the baseline Silver plans.

That has made Bronze plans less expensive and put more expansive and costly Gold plans within reach for many consumers. Eberle noted that with the subsidies, consumers could find plans with premiums less than $10 a month.


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