The state prepares for open enrollment for the Md health insurance exchange

A staff member explains the coverage options available on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to a Prince George County resident in 2019.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is making it easier for people to see which plans will cost them the least as the exchange opens its annual open enrollment period on November 1.

Open enrollments will run until January 15, with federal and state funding to reduce health insurance costs for those who do not have access to affordable employer-provided coverage or who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.

In March, Governor Larry Hogan announced that a record 182,861 people had signed up during the 2022 open enrollment period, which was extended due to the pandemic.

Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said the record was due to a number of factors, but mostly because the Maryland offerings were some of the most affordable plans in the nation. The state estimates that there are still 300,000 people in Maryland who need insurance, so it hopes to re-enroll many and reach more.

“We try to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what is available to them,” said Eberle.

Premiums have risen this year, but with the Maryland reinsurance program and young adult subsidy, as well as federal tax credits expanded for another three years, the rates are still low, he said.

For example, a 28-year-old Baltimore City resident earning about $ 32,000 per year could be insured for a premium of about $ 20 per month. That resident would be eligible for a $ 17 monthly premium with a gold plan to keep direct costs down, she said.

People must make selections by December 31 to make changes or sign up for a plan that starts January 1.

On the exchange website, marylandhealthconnection.gov, interested residents can enter basic details in the “Get a Quote” tool and be presented with the cheapest master plan. In years past, people often chose plans based on the lowest premiums.

This year, the website will help people gauge the value of a cost-sharing reduction, if appropriate. Cost-sharing reduction is available through the federal Affordable Care Act to reduce direct costs for eligible members who select silver-tier plans in the market.

“It’s much better coverage at a lower cost,” Eberle said.

He said two pockets of Maryland’s population can be especially helped by getting coverage through the exchange: young adults between the ages of 18-35 and people between the ages of 55 and 65 who are self-employed or have retired early but are not yet eligible. for Medicare.

This year, more people may be eligible to participate in the exchange. To be eligible, people cannot already have access to affordable health insurance. With a new Internal Revenue Service rule, the definition of accessible employer coverage has been changed to consider whether it is accessible for the whole family, if the price of coverage for the whole family exceeds 9.12% of the family income, as opposed to the price of a single individual coverage above 9.12%.

There are also several special membership periods throughout the year to reach out to people who lose their open membership. This includes people who find they are eligible for the exchange as they file their taxes and check a box for easy registration in their state tax return.

As of July 1, 2022, Maryland with an income below 150% of the federal poverty level ($ 20,385 for an individual, $ 41,625 for a family of 4) can enroll in a health plan through Maryland Health Connection all over the year, regardless of enrollment periods, as long as Congress continues to improve tax credits for this population.

There is no longer a limit on the total amount of family income to receive tax credits, so people can qualify for credits if their healthcare expenses exceed 8.5% of total family income.

Previously, those credits were not offered to people earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level.

Those who are young often don’t feel they need insurance, but Eberle is urging those people to consider it for unplanned medical emergencies, as well as for the ability to get vaccines and preventive tests covered.

“Hopefully the newly insured people have now found the value of having that insurance, so even if their situation may have changed, they will want to continue to have that coverage,” Eberle said.

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