Almost 40,000 Marylanders have signed up for health insurance on the state’s exchange during a special enrollment window set up because of the economic shutdown.
Officials at the Maryland Health Connection, the state’s private health insurance marketplace, said the surge surpassed their expectations as people who lost their jobs and their coverage because of the coronavirus pandemic took advantage of the window.
The enrollment period will end on Jun. 15.
Exchange Executive Director Michele Eberle said the counties with the highest enrollment rates generally had the highest rates of COVID-19 infection. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County each accounted for almost a fifth of all enrollments. Baltimore County, Baltimore city and Anne Arundel County had the next highest rates of enrollment, in that order.
Listing ethnicity is optional, so about one-third of enrollees fell under the “other” category. Black Americans accounted for about 29 percent of enrollees, followed by white and Latino Americans.
Slightly under half of those buying private commercial insurance were younger than 34. Eberle said MHC is always targeting the “young invincible” population, young people who are relatively healthy and believe they do not need insurance.
Just under one-third of those who bought private commercial insurance paid using tax credits.
“What that measurement tells us, we ought to keep an eye on that, because the more people that enroll that are not able to get tax credit, that tells us that the insurance is affordable, that people can afford to fully pay without a tax credit,” Eberle said.
Insurance premiums have declined on the Maryland exchange the last two years and are projected to decline by another 5% this year.
Eberle said the special enrollment period will help the 6 percent of Marylanders who do not have any health insurance stay covered and protect them from other potential health problems besides coronavirus.
“So, we knew that there was a lot of people that did not have health insurance that were really worried about, ‘What is this pandemic? What’s the cost to my family? What if I get sick?’” Eberle said. “And so, we thought this would be a great opportunity that we could open up the special enrollment which acts like our open enrollment period in the fall and help people get health insurance.”
Maryland is one of 11 states that operate their own exchanges under the Affordable Care Act which decided to open a special enrollment. The federal government, which operates an exchange that most states use, declined to do so.
People can visit the exchange website or download the Enroll MHC mobile app to enroll. Trained navigators or brokers can also assist them over the phone. Although the coronavirus special enrollment period is ending soon, Eberle said people have other options.
Anyone who loses employer-provided health insurance at any time during the year can enroll. People who have a significant change in their financial situation and suddenly qualify can enroll in Medicaid year-round.
There is also a separate special enrollment period lasting until Jul. 15 for people filing their income tax who do not have health insurance.