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Signup deadline coming for Maryland health exchange

The deadline for coverage that starts New Year\'s Day is Thursday, Dec. 18, at 11:59 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A big deadline is coming up for people who get their health insurance from the Maryland state exchange.

Dec. 18 is the last day to sign up for coverage that starts New Year’s Day; enrollment ends at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31. That’s also the last chance to change an existing policy for 2015 or to renew a subsidy.

Open season runs until Feb. 15, but for many health insurance consumers who use marylandhealthconnection.gov, decision time is now.

The good news is that after an embarrassing start last year, the revamped web site is working very well with no major glitches to speak of.

“We have gone from a crazy system to crazy easy — which is the right direction,” says Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

He says the launch of the exchange last year was frustrating not just for those responsible for the program, “but for so many people in Maryland who were trying to get quality and affordable coverage.”

Sharfstein took a lot of heat for the initial health insurance debacle in Maryland. He says he understands the anger, saying everyone was let down by a software system that just did not work.

Maryland spent millions to rebuild the site between open seasons, using software Connecticut developed for its state exchange. Sharfstein — who is leaving government later this month for a new post at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health — says, “it is a lot better to leave with problems fixed than problems dangling.”

The trouble-plagued federal health insurance marketplace also saw changes after its launch, but not as extensive as the Maryland site. A similar deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1 on healthcare.gov passed at 3 a.m. on Dec. 16.

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