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Maryland Reopens Insurance Enrollment as Coronavirus Spreads

Insurance and medical care costs are a top concern for people potentially infected with the coronavirus. (Adobe stock)
Insurance and medical care costs are a top concern for people potentially infected with the coronavirus. (Adobe stock)
March 17, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, Maryland has reopened its health insurance exchange to boost coverage and expand treatment for the uninsured. The state joins Washington and Massachusetts in offering a special sign-up period while the pandemic continues.

During this crisis, it's essential that all uninsured people get coverage, according to Stephanie Klapper, deputy director at Maryland Health Care for All. She pointed out that a lot of folks without health insurance end up getting treated in emergency rooms, which could create chaos in the middle of a pandemic.

"It's the most expensive place to get health care," Klapper said. "But also, in a public health crisis like this, the emergency rooms could be overwhelmed by too many people needing health care at the same time."

As of Monday, Maryland announced the number of confirmed cases was up to 37.

Signup for the state's health exchange is available until April 15. For more information, visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia operate their own health insurance plans, which Klapper said gives state lawmakers the authority to reopen enrollment in the face of an emergency such as the coronavirus. She said Maryland is the first state in the nation to also have what's called an Easy Enrollment program, which is linked through state tax forms.

"Already 18,000 Marylanders have checked a box on their state tax return to find out their health insurance options and learn how to take the next steps to enroll in coverage," she said. "That program is also still operational."

Klapper said she hopes the federal government will follow Maryland's lead and establish a special enrollment period for the federal Affordable Care Act. Congress has been urging Health and Human Services to deal with this public health crisis by opening enrollment for the 38 states that rely on the federal exchange, but no action has been taken so far.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD