If there was a most-improved public HIX award, Maryland Health Connection certainly would be in the running for such an honor. Nearly twice as many state residents enrolled for 2015 in half as much time compared to the previous year.

The recently released figures show that 122,778 purchased HIX coverage during the three-month enrollment period for 2015 plans, whereas it took six months to sign up slightly more than 63,000 people between October 2013 and March 2014.

“The system worked better this time, and not just in Maryland, but in a lot of places, including the federal exchange,” reports Andy Ratner, director of marketing and outreach for the Maryland Health Connection, noting many lessons learned from the first HIX enrollment period.

Another factor was familiarity. “The navigators, brokers and the other in-person assisters, including people who worked for the health exchange, were more familiar the second year than they were the first year,” he adds, “and the consumers were more familiar.”

Ratner praised the role of brokers in particular, noting that “it helped to have people who were very knowledgeable involved in helping the consumer.”  

Also see: Burwell: Insurance industry’s ‘expertise is critical’

Enrollment applications that were started but not completed by the Feb. 15 deadline were extended through Feb. 28 after latecomers flooded the public HIX’s website and call center, which caused delays. Ratner is aware of similar extensions in other states where technical glitches and/or incomplete applications due to procrastination necessitated such a change.

More activity is expected in the months ahead. A special enrollment period, for example, will take place from March 15 to April 30 for Marylanders who owe a tax penalty for not having health coverage in 2014 and who were unaware of that penalty so they can still enroll for coverage for the remainder of 2015, according to a recent announcement on the Maryland Health Connection website. Residents who experience life events also will be allowed to enroll or change plans outside of the annual open enrollment period, while the 2016 open-enrollment period is slated to begin Nov. 1, 2015 and end Jan. 31, 2016.

Also see: As public HIX funding is reduced, states look to brokers

In addition, Medicaid enrollments are expected to increase as more people become eligible through the program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Another factor will be the transfer of current Medicaid enrollees into the HIX marketplace through Maryland Health Connection from the legacy Client Automated Resource and Eligibility System.

Also see: ACA pits insurance giants against Md. co-op

Enrollment in Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Program was 1.3 million for 2015, 276,694 higher than the previous year. This figure includes individuals who lost Medicaid coverage because of changes in household, age and income, as well as redeterminations.

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