Maryland health exchange opens website for browsing plans

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Those who plan to buy health insurance for next year on the state’s health exchange can go online now and get estimates for available plans.

Open enrollment launches Nov. 1 and last until Dec. 15, a shortened period from previous years.

“We encourage everyone who needs health coverage to review their options on MarylandHealthConnection.gov,” said Dr. Howard Haft, interim executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. “Don’t automatically assume from what you’ve heard that this isn’t for you. You need to check it out.”

About 150,000 Marylanders bought private plans last year through the exchange and others bought directly from insurers, mostly people who do not get insurance through their employers. Many more enrolled in Medicaid, the federal insurance program for low-income residents, which was expanded under the health law.

The program, known as Obamacare, has become a flashpoint in Washington, with President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers unsuccessfully seeking to replace the law to make good on campaign promises going back years. Advocates and others have said the shortened enrollment period, as well as decreased marketing and hefty premium increases, could deter shoppers from buying coverage.

Exchange officials note that nine out of 10 people who bought plans on the exchange received federal subsidies to offset the cost. They also report that the percentage of uninsured in the state has been cut in half by the program, and now stands at around 6.1 percent.

There are two insurance companies offering plans this year, CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente. Several others have stopped selling plans since 2014 when the online marketplace first launched.

The website is marylandhealthconnection.gov. An app also is available for browsing.

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