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MD’s Health Insurance Exchange, Exelon’s Push To Expand Its Holdings, & Offshore Wind Leases

Christopher Connelly

While state officials say Maryland’s new health insurance exchange website will be ready to go by the next open enrollment period in November… they also say that the nearly 79-thousand Marylanders who bought private coverage through the old system will have to sign up for insurance again. Exelon files an application with Maryland’s Public Service Commission in its push to acquire more regional utilities, including Delmarva Power and Pepco. Another step was taken yesterday to bring an offshore wind industry to our state; the federal government awarded leases for 80-thousand acres of land off the coast of Ocean City to a subsidiary of an Italian renewable energy company. And more…

Health Insurance Exchange News: Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration says the new version of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange will be up and running before the next open enrollment starts in November. But as WYPR’s Christopher Connelly reports, anyone who bought a private plan during the last open enrollment period is going to have to sign up again, if they want to keep their insurance. This is because state can’t automatically move people from the old system to the new one. It’s not entirely clear yet what happens if folks don’t sign back up – but they could have to pay their insurance premiums without the government subsidy that makes them affordable. Maryland Health Secretary Josh Sharfstein says the state plans to reach out to who bought on the exchange and walk them through their options. The health law only guarantees people the same subsidy every year – if the premium rates go up, that means people will pay more out of pocket. So even though Maryland’s technology problems are forcing people back to the exchange this year, Sharfstein points out that it’s probably in consumers’ interest to do it anyway -- and they may want to do it every year. Nearly 79-thousand Marylanders signed up for private plans under the old problem-plagued health exchange website. The site that goes live this fall will operate on software Maryland bought from Connecticut. Open enrollment for new and returning customers starts November 15th, though the exchange board is considering a ‘soft launch’ that would only allow limited access in the first day or two of open enrollment. At its meeting yesterday, the health exchange board also approved nearly $450-thousand to pay for an amped up social media campaign for the healthcare exchange. There’s more here from the Washington Postandhere from the Daily Record.

Exelon Applies To Take Over Pepco, Delmarva Power: Chicago-based energy producer Exelon took another step yesterday in its push to expand operations in our region. Back in April, Exelon announced a $6.8-billion deal to purchase Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power, and Pepco. The latter two utilities serve parts of Maryland. But the deal needs a number of approvals before it can take effect. Earlier this summer, Exelon filed applications in DC, New Jersey and Delaware in an effort to add the utilities to its regional holdings, which already include Baltimore Gas and Electric. And yesterday, Exelon filed another application, this time with Maryland’s Public Service Commission. The Baltimore Business Journal reportsthe deal could be approved by the second or third quarter of next year. Exelon says the merger will bring 71-hundred new jobs to Maryland. The Baltimore Sun has more.

Feds Declare Winner In Auction For Maryland Offshore Wind Leases: Yesterday, the federal government auctioned two leases to develop wind power off the coast of Ocean City. WYPR’s Bret Jaspers reports. And you’ll find more here from the Baltimore Sun.

The Added Costs Of Bail Reform:WYPR's Fraser Smith and Christopher Connelly talk about the new costs associated with providing lawyers to defendants at initial bail hearings and why the General Assembly may have put counties in a difficult financial position.It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

Hogan Proposes Elimination Of State Income Taxes For Retirees: Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan says that he wants to eliminate all state income taxes on pensions and retirement income. But Hogan says he wouldn’t advance that plan immediately, if he’s elected to the state’s top job. Speaking at a gubernatorial forum in Baltimore County yesterday, Hogan said that he’d cut taxes for retirees ONLY after he’s made other changes to Maryland’s budget. Hogan didn’t provide any estimates on how much the tax cut would cost… and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown, who also appeared at yesterday’s forum, called that irresponsible. The event was not a debate, as both Brown and Hogan addressed the crowd separately. And they discussed issued other than taxes… including immigration. Lieutenant Governor Brown said that the nation has a responsibility to protect the thousands of immigrant children who’ve crossed the US/Mexico border in recent months. Hogan said “there’s no reason for these kids to be in Maryland,” and argued that they should be returned to their parents in their countries of origin. The Washington Post has more here; there’s morehere from the Baltimore Sun.

Preparations For Baltimore’s Casino Opening: Gambling is set to get underway at Maryland’s fifth casino is less than a week… and parking is expected to be at a premium on Tuesday when the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore has its grand opening. August 26th’s likely to be a busy night in Charm City, for not only is the casino opening, but the first-place Orioles will also be in town for a home game. The Baltimore Sun reports that city transportation officials say the casino's garage is expected to quickly fill to capacity and visitors are being encouraged to use public transportation to get to the casino, or use downtown parking garages. A temporary Charm City Circulator shuttle will run along Pratt and Lombard streets during the casino's first week of operation.

Plan To Uses $3-Million In Casino Revenue For Pipe Replacement Faces Opposition: Baltimore officials are planning to use about $3-million of the money the new casino generates to replace a major pipe the city’s underground steam pipe system. But the Baltimore Sun reports that the plan is facing opposition from lawmakers and community leaders – who say that using the casino revenue for things other than community projects would be a misuse of funds. The city says it needs to use the money to relocate the steam line by Sunday so the casino can open as planned on Tuesday. Board of Estimates is expected to vote on the plan today.

Coast Guard To Maintain NOAA Ships: The U.S. Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay has signed an agreement to provide ship maintenance and repair services for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic fleet. Under the agreement, NOAA expects to send at least one of its nine Atlantic ships to the yard each year for maintenance. The first NOAA ship is due in Curtis Bay in March. The Coast Guard's work on the ship will be about a million-dollar job. The Capital Gazette has more.

Plan To Limit Short-Term Rentals In Ocean City: Ocean City’s Planning and Zoning commission held a public hearing yesterday on a controversial proposal to ban short-term rentals in sections of the resort town. Supporters of the plan say it would cut down on loud gatherings by short-term renters in single-family residential neighborhoods. But opponents say the move would hurt other homeowners who rely on renters for income. The Daily Times reports that the Planning and Zoning Commission give the Mayor and the Town Council a recommendation on the matter before it comes to a vote.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 5 to 1 in yesterday’s game. The two teams wrap their series tonight. The Orioles are now looking to the playoffs. The team sent out the first batch of playoff ticket order forms to season-ticket holders yesterday. The O's lead the American League East by eight-and-a-half games and are looking for their second playoff berth in three seasons.

Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals won their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday; the score there was 8 to 1.

WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.