Maryland

The date on this press release is April 1st, but I didn't see it on the MD Connect website until today:

AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT DRAMATICALLY LOWERS HEALTH CARE COSTS FOR MANY MARYLANDERS

Low income individuals and families will pay nearly nothing for private health plans, higher income will be eligible for savings for the first time

(BALTIMORE) — Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland Health Connection today announced reductions in the health plan costs that reflect additional financial help available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The new law means that:

In what's become a pretty expected move, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is also extending their COVID SEP out thru mid-August:

GOV. HOGAN ANNOUNCES EXTENSION OF STATE HEALTH INSURANCE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD UNTIL AUG. 15

(BALTIMORE) — Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced today that the state health insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection, will extend its current Coronavirus Special Enrollment Period. Uninsured Marylanders have the opportunity to enroll in health coverage now until Aug. 15.

This deadline aligns with the federal special enrollment period extension announced by President Joe Biden for those 35 states that use HealthCare.gov, the federally run health insurance marketplace.

“We are pleased to announce the additional extension of this special enrollment period to Aug. 15, which

is already one of the nation’s longest in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Hogan.

“Our administration remains committed to ensuring Marylanders have access to the resources they need

Last week the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange issued a press release touting impressive enrollment numbers over the past year via their year-long COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP). The topline number was that they enrolled over 140,000 Maryland residents in either ACA exchange policies or Medicaid.

Since Medicaid enrollment is open year-round anyway, the number I'm obviously more interested in are the exchange plans, which most people can normally only enroll in during the official Open Enrollment Period each fall/winter. Since COVID has thrown that mostly into disarray, however, I've been keeping a close eye on SEP enrollment in 2020 and now in spring of 2021 as compared to the pre-COVID era, when the SEP rules were far more strictly adhered to.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange has issued a new press release which on the surface doesn't seem terribly unusual--it touts an impressive number of Maryland residents having gained healthcare coverage since they first launched their COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

What's unusual about this PR is that it's listing the cumulative number of people who've gained coverage since they launched their first COVID SEP a year ago:

MORE THAN 140,000 COVERED SINCE MARYLAND HEALTH CONNECTION LAUNCHED COVID-19 SPECIAL ENROLLMENT ONE YEAR AGO

  • 236,000 WHO STILL LACK COVERAGE COULD GET IT FOR FREE OR WITH SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL HELP

(MARCH 17, 2021) BALTIMORE — Yesterday marked one year since the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange launched a Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period in response to the public health emergency declared by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Five weeks ago the Maryland Health Connection announced they were re-opening ACA enrollment through March 15th in light of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.

When the Biden Administration announced a few weeks later that the federal ACA exchange, HealthCare.Gov, was planning on re-opening enrollment across 36 states for a full 3 months (from Februay 15th - May 15th), however, I was pretty sure that it would only be a matter of time before most of the state-based exchanges matched up with that time window...and sure enough, via the MD Health Connection:

GOV. HOGAN ANNOUNCES EXTENSION OF STATE HEALTH INSURANCE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD UNTIL MAY 15

Just announced moments ago:

As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders to enroll in a private health plan. Here’s what you need to know:

When your coverage begins

The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin immediately and ends Monday, March 15. Here are the dates coverage will begin, depending on what day you enrolled in a health plan:

  • Enroll now-Jan. 15, coverage starts Jan.1
  • Enroll Jan. 16-Feb. 15, coverage starts Feb.1
  • Enroll Feb. 16-March 15, coverage starts March.1

How do I enroll?

To enroll, visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or download the free “Enroll MHC” mobile app. Select “Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period.”

Hot off the presses from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's office (interestingly, the announcement is being made by him, not by the Maryland Health Connection ACA exchange itself, which is unusual):

Governor Hogan and Maryland Health Connection Announce Record Enrollment for Health Coverage

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan today announced that more than 166,000 Marylanders enrolled in private health coverage for 2021 through Maryland Health Connection—the largest enrollment ever on the state’s health insurance marketplace—which represents a 4.5% increase of about 7,100 enrollees since the previous year.

“I am pleased to see so many Marylanders taking advantage of our state’s impressive health insurance marketplace, especially as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, ” said Governor Hogan. “With one of the longest COVID-19 special enrollment periods in the country, we continue to work to increase healthcare access and affordability in Maryland.”

Back in June, Maryland's Insurance Dept. posted the preliminary 2021 rate requests for the individual and small group markets. At the time, carriers were seeking an average 4.8% premium reduction on the individual market and a 5.1% average increase for the small group market.

Recently, state regulators posted the approved rate changes for each, and the final 2021 rates have been reduced from the original requests:

Governor Hogan Announces Third Consecutive Year of Lower Individual Health Insurance Premiums

Back on March 10th, the Washington HealthPlanFinder became the first state-based ACA exchange/marketplace to formally create an official COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period, which was originally scheduled to have a deadline of April 8th.

Since that time, nearly every other state-based ACA exchange (all of them except for Idaho) has done likewise. Some of them required some sort of verbal or written attestation of thier eligibility status, while others didn't, but all of them were wide open to any uninsured resident who would normally be eligible to enroll during the official Open Enrollment Period.

The deadlines for the "open" COVID-19 SEP varied by state...but most of them ended up extending them out as that deadline approached. In some cases, they bumped it out again...and again...and yet again, as it became increasingly clear that the deadly pandemic isn't going away anytime soon.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

NEARLY 58,000 MARYLANDERS GAIN HEALTH COVERAGE DURING TWO SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS

BALTIMORE, MD – A total of nearly 58,000 Marylanders enrolled in health coverage during Maryland Health Connection’s two special enrollment periods that began in February and March and ended Wednesday, July 15.

The Maryland Health Insurance Easy Enrollment program launched Feb. 26 as the first of its kind in the nation. The Comptroller of Maryland asked state tax filers to check a box on their state tax return if they lacked health insurance and desired that information to be shared with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. Several states are in the process of looking at creating similar programs.

Since February:

  • More than 41,000 filers checked the box
  • More than 3,700 enrolled as of July 13

Final numbers are pending, because tax filers had until the July 15 tax filing deadline to check the box on their state tax form, and will have several weeks to enroll.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

TWO SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE END JULY 15

  • Nearl​y 53,000 r​esidents have enrolled since mid-March

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced it is entering the final week for Marylanders to enroll in health insurance coverage through the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period and the Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program. Maryland made the decision to re-open the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period and extend the deadline in an effort to give more residents the opportunity to enroll. Both are set to end on July 15.

The deadline extension for the Coronavirus Special Enrollment Period comes as more than 49,000 residents have received coverage during this special enrollment period that began in March with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of a State of Emergency in Maryland. Even before this extension, Maryland already offered one of the longest special enrollment periods in the country since the emergency began.

Not terribly surprising news; via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JULY 15

  • More than 43,000 have enrolled since mid-March

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced today that it has extended the deadline of its Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period so that uninsured residents will have until July 15 to enroll in health coverage through Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

The deadline extension comes as more than 43,000 residents have received coverage during this special enrollment period that began in March with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of a State of Emergency in Maryland. Even before this extension, Maryland already offered one of the longest special enrollment periods in the country since the emergency began.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

NEARLY 40,000 MARYLANDERS HAVE ENROLLED DURING CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD

  • Less than a week left for uninsured residents to get marketplace coverage

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange today is urging uninsured Marylanders to enroll in coverage before the June 15 deadline through the state’s health insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection, under the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period. To date, nearly 40,000 residents have received health coverage during this special enrollment period that began in March with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of a State of Emergency in Maryland.

via the Maryland Insurance Administration:

Health Carriers Propose Affordable Care Act (ACA) Premium Rates for 2021

BALTIMORE – Health carriers are seeking a range of changes to the premium rates they will charge consumers for plans sold in Maryland’s Individual Non-Medigap (INM) and Small Group (SG) markets in 2021.

The rates submitted for the INM market include the estimated impacts from the state-based reinsurance program (SBRP) enacted in 2019 via a 1332 State Innovation Waiver, approved by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

This is actually from a couple of weeks ago, but Maryland's COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period continues until June 15th, so it's still relevant:

30,000+ MARYLANDERS HAVE ENROLLED DURING THE CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD

  • Remaining uninsured residents have less than a month to get marketplace coverage

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange today reminded uninsured Marylanders that they have until June 15 to enroll in coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection, under the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period. As of May 15, nearly 31,000 residents across the state have taken advantage of this special enrollment period that began in March with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of a State of Emergency in Maryland.

Note: I've been distracted by my county-level COVID19 tracking project for the past couple of weeks, so I'm posting a series of entries on various ACA/healthcare policy developments which I've missed along the way.

Back in 2016, many health insurers which had been losing money hand over fist on the ACA individual market (in spite of many making record profits in other divisions) decided to bail on the ACA market entirely. Of these, the biggest shocks to the system were Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare, each of which pulled out of multiple states, and UHC bailing was the biggest blow of all:

Updated numbers from Maryland Health Connect:

MORE THAN 21,500 MARYLANDERS OBTAIN HEALTH COVERAGE THROUGH STATE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS

  • Special Enrollments for Coronavirus Emergency, Tax Filers Allow Uninsured Additional Opportunities to Enroll Through Maryland Health Connection

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 21,500 residents have enrolled in coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection. Earlier this month, the deadlines for both special enrollment periods were extended to accommodate growing health concerns as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the new tax filing deadline.

The coronavirus special enrollment period, which began a month ago and now runs through June 15, has resulted in more than 19,000 residents obtaining health coverage — 61 percent in Medicaid and the remainder in private insurance, with most of those qualifying for financial help to lower the cost of the plan.

I've written a LOT lately about the dozen state-based ACA exchanges which have implemented COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods for uninsured residents...as well as the two ACA exchanges (Idaho's, which is state-based, and The Big One, HealthCare.Gov, which hosts 38 states) which haven't done so as of yet.

Given how much outrage there's been at the federal government for not opening up HC.gov to a COVID SEP (Idaho has somehow managed to escape notice for making the same decision) by practically every party (even the American Enterprise Institute, which isn't exactly a lefty organization, is calling for one), it's worth taking a look at the states which do have COVID SEPs open to anyone uninsured to see just how many people are actually taking advantage of them.

Back on March 14th, the Maryland Health Connection announced a formal COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period for uninsured residents, letting them #GetCovered through April 15th.

Maryland was already offering a SEP for uninsured residents to #GetCovered when they file their state taxes by checking off a box, but that was made pretty much moot when they launched the COVID SEP as well.

Anyway, today they announced that they're extending the COVID SEP out by another full 2 months:

SPECIAL ENROLLMENT FOR CORONAVIRUS STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED TO JUNE 15

As I've noted before, Maryland is already offering a SEP for uninsured residents to #GetCovered when they file their state taxes by checking off a box, but today they went one step further and created an official Coronavirus SEP as well, which is open to any eligible uninsured residents whether they're utilizing the "check the box" tax form option or not:

Coronavirus emergency launches one-month special enrollment period

As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders.

When will the special enrollment period begin?

  • The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin Monday, March 16, and end Wednesday, April 15. Coverage will begin April 1, 2020, regardless of when a health plan is selected during that time period.

How do I enroll?

Michigan:

Governor Whitmer Announces Statewide Closure of All K-12 School Buildings; School building closures will last Monday, March 16 through Sunday, April 5

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that in order to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan, she is ordering the closure of all K-12 school buildings, public, private, and boarding, to students starting Monday, March 16 until Sunday, April 5. School buildings are scheduled to reopen on Monday, April 6. 

As of tonight, the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan is 12. 

Last year, Maryland passed a very clever new law to help expand healthcare coverage through the state's ACA exchange and ACA Medicaid expansion without requiring any additional financial subsidies:

Maryland would use state tax forms to identify uninsured residents and refer them to options for no-cost or low-cost health care under a bill moving forward in the General Assembly.

The bill, if approved, would add a question on state tax returns asking taxpayers if they have health insurance. Those who answer that they don’t have health insurance would be referred to the state's Medicaid program or the health exchange, where individuals can buy health insurance plans.

...Dorn explained to me that the way it would work is much more than that: The state tax returns would include a new line where uninsured filers would be required to check off one of two boxes:

SUMMARY OF #COVID-19 SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS:

ALL OTHER STATES: You may qualify for a 60-day Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you've recently lost (or will soon lose) your employer-based healthcare coverage, or if you've experienced other Qualifying Life Events (QLE) such as getting marrinew yorked/divorced, moving, giving birth/adopting a child, getting out of prison, turning 26 etc. For these SEPs you may have to provide documentation to verify your QLE. Visit HealthCare.Gov or your state's ACA exchange website for details on the process.

Last March, I wrote about a clever and absurdly simple (on the surface) bill being passed through the Maryland state legislature which could result in the state lowering their uninsured rate substantially...by up to as many as an estimated 120,000 people:

In early 2018, Maryland state legislators introduced a bill which included a twist on the coverage mandate penalty--those who failed to sign up had another option: They could either pay the penalty or they could choose to have the penalty amount be used to automatically enroll them in the lowest-cost insurance policy available. If they qualified for ACA subsidies, those would even be baked into the equation as well. This was a clever way of softening the blow, while also increasing enrollment and helping out the ACA risk pool.

via the Maryland Health Connection press release:

158,600 MARYLANDERS ENROLLED THROUGH MARYLAND HEALTH CONNECTION

  • 2020 enrollment total largest in four years

BALTIMORE (DEC. 17, 2019) – A total of 158,600 Marylanders enrolled in private health coverage for 2020 on Maryland Health Connection, the largest enrollment in four years on the state-based health insurance marketplace.

That was 1,637 more enrollees than a year ago when 156,963 enrolled. It was also the largest enrollment on the health insurance marketplace since 2016 when 162,652 enrolled. Enrollments for 2020 coverage grew in 20 of 24 jurisdictions.

The 45-day open enrollment period for the coming plan year began Nov. 1 and ended Sunday. A few hundred additional enrollments will be completed this week for consumers who had begun the process but hadn’t finished by Sunday night.

via the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange:

Maryland Health Connection will hold nearly 20 “Last Chance” events throughout the state during the final week of open enrollment Dec. 7-15 to provide free help enrolling in health coverage. Marylanders can enroll in health and dental coverage until Dec. 15 through Maryland Health Connection, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

At the free “Last Chance” events, certified health insurance navigators will help Marylanders sign up for a health plan and understand their coverage options and financial help available. Assistance also is available in Spanish.

Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or the Enroll MHC mobile app to browse plans, compare coverage and costs, and enroll.

The fall open enrollment is for private health and dental plans only. People who have coverage through Medicaid will receive a notice when it’s time to renew; enrollment for Medicaid is all year for eligible Marylanders.

via the Maryland Health Connection:

HEALTH PLAN RATES HAVE DROPPED; OPEN ENROLLMENT BEGINS NOV. 1

  • “START HERE” AT MARYLANDHEALTHCONNECTION.GOV

BALTIMORE (Oct. 30, 2019) - “Start Here” will be the theme for 2020 health care open enrollment season that begins Nov. 1 with Maryland Health Connection.

The “Start Here” campaign will appear on social media, print, online and other venues, including gas station TVs, to emphasize where Marylanders can go to enroll and use the free, expert advisers located throughout Maryland. A TV ad will run to complement the campaign.

Open enrollment begins on MarylandHealthConnection.gov at 5 a.m. on Nov. 1. Dec. 15 is the deadline to sign up for 2020 coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2020.

New this year, Value Plans feature lower deductibles and increased access to primary care, mental health care, and generic drugs before deductibles apply. Value plans are designed to lower consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for the health care services the majority of people use most frequently.

I'm not sure how this slipped by me, but in addition to Covered California already having launched their 2020 Open Enrollment Period yesterday, five other state-based ACA exchanges are already partly open as well. That is, you can shop around, compare prices on next year's health insurance policies and check and see what sort of financial assistance you may be eligible for:

I'm not sure when the other 7 state-based exchanges will launch their 2020 window shopping tools, nor do I know when HealthCare.Gov's window shopping will be open for the other 38 states, although I believe they usually do so about a week ahead of the official November 1st Open Enrollment Period launch date.

Back in May, Maryland was the very first state to publicly release their preliminary 2020 individual and small group market rate change requests. For 2019, thanks to several laws passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Hogan, including a robust ACA Section 1332 reinsurance waiver program, instead of increasing by another 30%, premiums dropped by 13.4% this year.

For 2020, the preliminary rates looked pretty good: Average rates were expected to drop by around 3% or so.

Well, today the Maryland Insurance Department announced the approved rates for 2020...and it's even better than that:

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