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Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Need health insurance? Open enrollment for Maryland's marketplace starts next week

Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center hospital room.
Adventist HealthCare Fort Washington Medical Center hospital room.

Open enrollment in Maryland starts on Nov. 1, which means residents can sign up for health care if it’s not provided to them by their employer or a state program. The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was a health care reform law enacted in 2010. Maryland runs its own independent health care exchange known as Maryland Health Connection.

The enrollment period is open until Jan. 15, for coverage to begin in January 2023.

Marylanders can visit the Maryland Health Connectionwebsite to pick out plans or get an estimate. There are 181,603 individuals with insurance exchange plans this year, compared to 166,038 in 2021.

Maryland expanded Medicaid, a health care program for low-income residents in 2014, which shrunk the potential pool of customers for the independent exchange.

Still, about 6% of people in Maryland are uninsured this year.

Federal subsidies for independent exchange insurance buyers went into effect in 2021 dropping monthly insurance premiums for some individuals to zero or significantly reducing the cost as part of a coronavirus relief package. Those subsidies were extended until 2025.

Michele Eberle, executive director at the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, a state-run group, said there are a number of low-cost and even free options on the marketplace.

“The state has invested a lot of funding towards helping reduce the costs of premiums for individuals and there's also a federal program, which is referred to as a Tax Credit Program,” she said.

There are three main insurance companies participating in the exchange: United Healthcare, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente.

“They offer coverage all throughout the state. So you can find multiple plans throughout the state,” she said.

The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance carriers from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing health conditions, a factor that kept many people from qualifying for insurance in the past.

The marketplace’s plans cover preventative care like vaccinations and screenings, as well as visits for immediate health issues.

“Insurance not only protects from catastrophic financial incidents, but also helps provide routine care, preventive care, mental health services, substance use disorder services and visits to your primary care doctor,” Eberle said. “The intent is to help you stay healthy.”

One new fold in the insurance marketplace this year is that families may now be eligible for state tax credits even if someone in the household gets insurance from their employer.

For example, if someone is getting coverage for their job, but doesn’t make enough money to extend that plan to the whole family, other members of the household can use the Maryland Health Connection to get discounts on insurance if they are eligible.

“We're expecting that there will be a lot more people that could get health coverage that were not able to in previous years,” Eberle said.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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