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Emergency stop-gap insurance plan clears committee vote

The emergency plan to provide state insurance to people stuck because of Maryland's faulty health exchange cleared another hurdle Wednesday as a committee voted to send it to the floor of the House of Delegates.

The proposal to let people join the state's high-risk pool, known as the Maryland Health Insurance Program, passed the House Health and Government Operations Wednesday afternoon, the day after the Senate approved it.

The program was set to expire after the Affordable Care Act took effect, but Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed extending it and providing retroactive coverage to people who tried to buy policies through the health exchange but were stymied by the online insurance marketplace's technical problems.

State officials had estimated as many as 5,000 people would qualify for that program, but on Wednesday said they expect far fewer people would have to use the stop-gap insurance plan.

Carolyn Quattrocki, the interim director of the exchange, said that as of Tuesday evening, 1,284 households — roughly 3,000 to 4,000 people — got on the list to get retroactive coverage from private insurance carriers.

Quattrocki said the state made 3,000 phone calls and sent 2,000 emails trying to reach people they believed tried to buy insurance through the exchange but were stymied by technical problems.

The four companies who sell insurance on the exchange agreed to offer retroactive coverage dating back to Jan. 1 to such people, as long as they signed up by Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the state's health secretary, said everyone on the list must wait to be called to sign up for coverage. But, he added, those private policies will generally be cheaper than the cost to be part of the state-run insurance program.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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