Howard County residents led the pack in health care enrollment numbers for Maryland's western region, according to data recently released by the group charged with coordinating enrollment efforts. 

Between Oct. 1, 2013, the start of the first open enrollment period under the Maryland Health Connection, the state's health care marketplace, and March 31 of this year, 4,563 Howard residents signed up for a qualified health insurance plan. In the western region of the state, which also included Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, a total of 11,145 people enrolled in health plans. 

The statistics come from a report released by the Door to HealthCare, an initiative created by Healthy Howard, a Howard-based public-health nonprofit, to assist local residents with health care enrollment. 

Statewide, 72,207 Marylanders enrolled for qualified health plans, which are distinct from Medicaid, a government program that offers coverage to low-income families and individuals. Including Medicaid, more than 370,000 Marylanders signed up for insurance during the open enrollment period. 

"We are honored to be part of this tremendous moment in history as more than 370,000 Marylanders now have access to high-quality, affordable health care," Christine Hall, executive director of Healthy Howard, said of the statistics.

For the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15, 2015, she added: "We're focused on connecting with populations that we might not have reached, and ensuring that everyone who wants our free help finding coverage through Maryland Health Connection can sign up for a plan that meets their needs." 

Door to HealthCare's "navigators" and "assisters" are able to help Maryland residents in comparing and enrolling in health care plans. Since enrollment began, according to the organization, the Door has assisted more than 9,000 people by phone, talked with consumers at 863 events and offered personalized help through 11,174 appointments. 

The organization offers up-to-date information on health plan options on its website, doortohealthcare.org or by phone at 855-288-DOOR.