ROCKVILLE – Despite the federal government’s efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more county residents enrolled in the Maryland Health Connection for 2019 than they did the previous year.
Statewide, 156,962 residents signed up for private health coverage during the open enrollment season, a two percent increase.
In Montgomery County, 41,763 people enrolled, which is a 0.4 percent increase. In Prince George’s County, 22,674 people signed up – a one-percent increase. Including the new sign-ups, Montgomery County now has 138,528 enrollees, and Prince George’s County has 176,855.
“We just went up marginally, but you know that is a win for us,” said Dourakine Rosarion, outreach and support specialist for Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services
“To me, it’s a success, given the climate we are in,” she said, referring to both the United States Supreme Court’s decision to declare parts of the ACA unconstitutional and attempts by the U.S. Congress to kill the program altogether.
The last day to sign up for coverage in 2019 during open enrollment was Dec. 15, 2018. On that day, some 5,500 Marylanders enrolled, which is the highest one-day total since the program began, according to the Maryland Health Connection records. That body operates the state’s health insurance marketplace.
Those who need health care and have existing medical issues tend to sign up more frequently than younger people, Rosarion said, noting that young people often view themselves as invincible and not likely to get sick. Because the county’s housing and other costs are expensive, young people and those on limited incomes are reluctant to spend money on health care, she said.
However, she added, it’s important to both the program and the young people themselves to have medical insurance.
“Prevention is key. It’s not just seeing your physician when you have a problem,” she said of health care.
That is why she was pleased to spread the word that “this past year, we saw a reduction in rates. The rates are more affordable” in Maryland.
Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, which administers the Maryland Health Connection, was pleased with the increase in enrollment throughout the state.
“More individuals and families with coverage means added security and peace of mind for them and lower insurance costs for everyone,” she wrote in a statement.
Throughout the state, enrollment increased by four percent among young adults ages 18 to 34, according to the statement. There also was an eight percent increase in the number of African Americans signing up. The rate for Hispanics rose two percent. Calls to the center’s assistance lines were down almost 25 percent. The average call lasted a little more than five minutes.
State residents had two health care providers from which to choose. They are CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic.
The majority of the new enrollees, 83,030, went with CareFirst. The other 73,933 chose Kaiser Permanente.
The Maryland Health Connection is the state-based marketplace for Maryland residents to shop for and enroll in health insurance. It also determines who is eligible for Medicaid and other assistance programs.