More than 600,000 enroll in health insurance through the state's online marketplace

More than 600,000 people get health care through Maryland's health exchange.

The Maryland health exchange enrolled more than 600,000 people in public and private insurance for coverage in 2015, exchange officials said Tuesday.

Open enrollment ended earlier this year, but those whose marital or work status changes can still access coverage through the online marketplace, set up under the Affordable Care Act for people without another way to gain insurance.

Exchange officials said 123,673 bought private plans and 482,553 people signed up for Medicaid, which also enrolls people year-round. About 94 percent received financial subsidies and about 78 percent signed up with CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield. Kaiser Permanente enrolled 16 percent. The remaining 6 percent signed up for Evergreen Health Co-op and others.

The gains drove down the rate of uninsured people in the state to about 7 percent this year from about 13 percent in 2013, according to a recent poll.

The next open enrollment period is slated to begin Nov. 1, and exchange officials said during their monthly meeting Tuesday that they would launch a pilot program to steer consumers electronically to a pool of 25 brokers who could help them choose a plan.

People would access brokers through the state's call center, which at times has been overrun by callers needing help choosing a plan. Exchange officials believe the broker program could better serve consumers with expert advice, while saving the state money on its call center and giving brokers business.

Brokers would get a commission from the insurers. In the first year the state plans to cover a software licensing fee of almost $1,700 for each broker to give them access to the system. If the pilot is successful, the program would expand to more brokers.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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