Maryland special sign-up period for health insurance opens

Maryland residents who lack health insurance — and who are spooked by the COVID-19 outbreak — can sign-up for coverage next week.

In response to the spread of the virus, the Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace, is opening a special open-enrollment period beginning on Monday.

Consumers who wish to enroll can find policies at MarylandHealthConnection.gov.

“Health concerns are heightened for many families, and Maryland is in a state of emergency,” said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which administers Maryland Health Connection.

“We are grateful for the support of our insurance companies in opening this additional special enrollment for uninsured residents.”

The special enrollment period will run from March 16 through April 15. Coverage purchased during the special window will have a start date of April 1, regardless of when enrollment occurs, the MHBE said in a news release on Friday.

The state’s normal enrollment window runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, but the government created a special window in response to the current health scare. The federal government has not followed suit, despite pleadings from lawmakers and health care advocates.

There is no health screening prior to enrollment. Premiums vary based on age and ZIP code, an agency spokeswoman said in an email. Gender, health status and smoking do not affect premiums.

If a consumer has existing coverage that is not compliant with the federal Affordable Care Act, they can switch plans during the new enrollment period through the Maryland Health Connection.

“Consumers who already have coverage through MHC cannot use this special enrollment to change coverage,” Eberle said.

In addition to the web portal, the exchange has an “Enroll MHC” mobile app. Consumers can also get assistance by calling 1-855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We applaud Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange for creating a Special Enrollment Period for uninsured Marylanders to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage during Maryland’s Coronavirus State of Emergency,” said Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Deputy Director Stephanie Klapper in statement.

“In this crisis it is essential that all uninsured Marylanders get coverage so they can get the care they need – for their safety and for all of us.”

This year Maryland launched its Easy Enrollment program. People who lack health coverage can begin the process of signing up for coverage by checking a box on their state tax returns. The program is designed to locate people who qualify may qualify for no- or low-cost insurance through federal tax credits and various subsidies.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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