New enrollment in the state healthcare exchange is up 15 percent according to numbers from state officials.
On Nov.1, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the state healthcare exchange that started after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and allows residents to buy a subsided health insurance plan, opened for enrollment. 5,122 new people enrolled in the state exchange from Nov. 1 to Nov. 6, compared to last year’s number of 3,478 – a 15 percent increase.
Total enrollment, which combines the number of new enrollees with those who manually renewed their plans, is up 100 percent with 10, 420 people enrolling or reenrolling Nov.1 to Nov. 6 compared to 5,212 last year at the same time. The number does not count the 120,000 people participating in the exchange who automatically had their plans renewed.
“It’s been a very good first week of enrollment both at the state and nationally,” said Andrew Ratner, chief marketing officer for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
The increased enrollment is contrasted against the national debate over the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare. Congressional Republicans, at the urging of President Donald J. Trump, have attempted multiple times to repeal the ACA, failing to provide a repeal bill that has passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
In addition, during the past few months the state exchange has also had issues. First, three of the original five insurance providers dropped out of the state exchange, leaving only CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States. State regulators also approved rate increases for insurance plans in the exchange at the request of the last two remaining insurance providers. However, the state agreed to give additional subsidies to some of the people who will see a rise in their healthcare premiums.
Ratner said the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange did not spend more money on advertising or change its marketing outreach program because of potential repeal of the ACA, and also said increased attention on healthcare brought awareness to the state exchange.
“There was a lot of talk about it so people were aware...that probably created some awareness in of itself,” Ratner said.
Ratner also created improvements to the state exchange’s website and smartphone application for the increased numbers.
“It’s a more mature program and it’s operating at a higher level,” Ratner said.
While talk about repealing Obamacare did not hurt enrollment in the state exchange, it left officials in the County uncertain about the future. So far about 100,000 people in the County have gotten healthcare coverage either through the expansion of Medicaid, a federal program that provides healthcare coverage to poor and disabled people, or in the state exchange.
Council member George Leventhal (D-at large), who chairs the Council Health and Human Services Committee, said decreased coverage in the state exchange or by Medicaid would put more pressure on the County’s healthcare program, Montgomery Cares, which provides some healthcare services to uninsured residents.