Healthcare exchange advice available at local social services branch
BY ZACH MELVIN — The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) second open enrollment period began on Nov. 15, but eligible Marylanders had to wait a few extra days before signing up for health insurance.
After a heavily criticized launch during the last open enrollment period, Maryland is switching to Connecticut’s health exchange system, which — according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — enrolled 11,435 more residents than Maryland’s last year.
To avoid any problems associated with the transition, the state pushed back the initial enrollment dates, said Andrew Ratner, director of marketing and outreach at the Maryland Health Connection.
“We wanted to sequence the rollout with Connector Entities, Navigators and then online self enrollment as a practice to ensure all parts of the system are performing well,” Ratner said.
“If you go to the website, you can still browse your options,” said Mary Anderson, media contact at the Capital Region Health Connector. “You just can’t actually enroll until later on.”
Starting Nov. 17, residents were able to meet in-person with a health exchange navigator to sign up for an insurance plan.
“There are people who are going to need support and people who don’t have the necessary information,” said Shari Curtis, ACA project manager for the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. “Navigators can assist them and guide them through the process.”
There will be locations throughout the county where people can meet with a health exchange navigator. Hyattsville residents can go to the local branch of the county’s Department of Social Services at 6505 Belcrest Rd.
Online enrollment started on Nov. 19 for eligible residents who want to sign up from the comfort of their homes,
“If you have all your information, you can really do it in your jammies,” Curtis said. “We’re extending our arms and our arteries to really reach out and inform people of the benefits of health care.”
Once open enrollment begins, eligible residents have until Feb. 15 to sign up for health insurance to avoid a tax penalty. In 2015, the tax penalty for forgoing insurance jumps from $95 to $325.