MARYLAND - Maryland's health insurance marketplace has come a long way since October 1st, but with the end of open enrollment just over one month away, some local insurance experts say the state may be far from where it should be.
When the online health exchange first launched, Maryland had a goal of enrolling 150,000 people in private health plans by the March 31st deadline, but according to Maryland Health Connection's most recent data, only 31,112 have done so. This is just seven percent of eligible Maryland residents and about 20 percent of the state's goal.
"It's just not working it's a poor investment of tax payer dollars," says Chris Carroll, Vice President of Atlantic, Smith, Cropper, and Deeley in Willards, Maryland. "Those were huge capital investments to do very little good."
Carroll says the numbers may also be misleading. The 31,112 enrollment number reportedly refers to those who have chosen to enroll. However, some of these people may have not paid their first monthly premium yet, which is what makes the enrollment official.
"The insurance carrier creates a paper invoice, and some people get a little lost if they don't have someone staying on them and working through it with them," says Carroll. "If they miss the deadline to pay then their coverage won't go into effect, and we have been seeing significant disturbances in that process."
Alyssa Minton, an executive with Avery Hall Insurance in Salisbury, Maryland, says she is also seeing clients who are right on the edge of not being eligible for a tax credit, and are opting out of not buying the insurance because of the cost.
"They're just going to take a penalty at the end of the year, and most of those people are the young people unfortunately, which is who we wanted to be enrolled," says Minton.
However, insurance experts say some residents cannot even get that far due to website glitches.
"The problems are getting better but were still having issues," says Minton. "They have quirks in the system that are getting people hung up."
"Maryland is still having problems with calculation errors," says Carroll. "It's improved drastically but still not what you would consider acceptable failure rate."
Both Minton and Carroll agree that they prefer to use the federal online health exchange, which they say has made huge improvements and has become much more user-friendly. With a committee looking for alternative options for the second enrollment period in November, they say they are hopeful for a solution.
"It's right around the corner to us," says Minton. "We're looking at a whole different ball game with renewing people and making sure people are still eligible for that tax credit and also getting new people during that short enrollment period that they're having."
Carroll hopes that nation-wide problems with the law are also addressed. One issue he says he sees on a daily basis involves a family that has coverage options available for work and the other dependents do not. Carroll says the dependents can enroll on the exchange with tax subsidized plans, but the families aren't getting any credit for the premium the member is paying at work. In the end, they actually pay more money than they would have if there was not an employer plan.
"It's really broken," says Carroll. "The consumers are being harmed by that and we really need to address those because they are not going to go away."
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