Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 12, 2013

Insurance marketplace expected to enroll 280,000 residents

HAGERSTOWN — Maryland’s new health insurance marketplace is expected to enroll 180,000 of the state’s approximately 800,000 uninsured residents through private insurance and 100,000 more through Medicaid within the first year of enrollment, which begins this fall, officials said Wednesday.

The state-based exchange, called Maryland Health Connection, is an online portal where individuals, families and small businesses can compare health insurance options, determine eligibility for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and enroll in private insurance or public programs, according to the connection’s Danielle Davis, director of communications, outreach and training. Enrollment also will be available by telephone, mail or in person.

Maryland Health Connection leaders came to the Washington County Health Department in Hagerstown  to discuss the initiation of the exchange, which is operated by the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, a quasi-government agency. Health insurance options offered through the exchange include qualified health plans, or private insurance, Medicaid and Maryland’s Children’s Health Program. Medicaid is a health and long-term care coverage program funded federally and by states for families and individuals who meet eligibility requirements, such as low income.

One streamlined application will determine the options for which an enrollee qualifies, Davis said. Open enrollment for individuals and families begins Oct. 1; the insurance will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Open enrollment for individuals and families closes March 31, 2014. Enrollment for Medicaid is continuous. Also continuous is enrollment for small businesses that have between one and 50 employees.

Enrollment begins Jan. 1, 2014; the insurance will take effect March 1, 2014. About 8,469 small-business employees are expected to get insurance through the exchange in 2014, according to a University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Hilltop Institute study.

Maryland is one of 18 states to become a state-based exchange following passage of the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010. A Maryland Health Connection call center will operate in Baltimore, and six regional connector entities will work with local partner organizations to aid in consumer assistance, Davis said.

For the western region — which includes Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll and Howard counties — Healthy Howard, a Columbia nonprofit organization, will be the connector entity, leading outreach, education and enrollment throughout the region, Executive Director Christine Hall said. Healthy Howard will be supported by 12 partner organizations, including the Washington County Community Action Council, throughout the western region, which is home to 84,812 residents who currently do not have health insurance, Davis said.

“We’re really trying to help educate people about the importance of access to health coverage, and what their options are,” Davis said. Local health and social services departments across the state also will participate in enrollment.

The exchange website can be viewed at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov.

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