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Maryland see boom in health insurance enrollment due to coronavirus, extends special period to sign up

State officials said Wednesday they would extend a special enrollment period to buy health insurance through the Maryland health exchange after about 10,000 people responded to the offer to buy coverage earlier this month as cases of coronavirus began rising.

Enrollment has been extended to June 15 on the exchange, created under the federal Affordable Care Act for people who did not get coverage through their jobs.

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Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency as public health officials expect a surge of new cases of the COVID-19 disease in coming weeks.

State insurance officials have ordered insurers selling exchange plans to cover the cost of coronavirus testing and offer certain protections and benefits such as allowing consumers to buy extra doses of their medications. Medicaid also is covering testing and so are many private insurers.

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The federal government declined to reopen enrollment on the federal exchange that serves about three dozen states.

The enrollment period in Maryland began March 16, and so far about 85% of those enrolled have qualified for subsidized private plans or Medicaid, the government health program for low-income residents.

“We are in a unique situation, and a lot of people across the state are worried about their health and the health of their community," said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which administers Maryland Health Connection. "The decision to extend the enrollment deadline was made to ensure as many people as possible get the coverage they need.”

Exchange officials said more than half of those who have signed up are young adults age 18 to 34.

Before the special enrollment period, about 6% of Marylanders were uninsured, or about 300,000 people.

People can enroll at MarylandHealthConnection.gov or call 1-855-642-8572 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. There also is a free mobile app called Enroll MHC.

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