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Obamacare enrollment in Maryland fall just below last year's numbers

Marylanders enrolled in private health plans under Obamacare in almost the same numbers as last year, despite threats to the landmark law that made health insurance more accessible.

A total of 153,571 people enrolled in private health plans, according to figures released Thursday by the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which administers the state-based insurance marketplace where people can buy plans. That’s 2.5 percent fewer than the 157,637 people who enrolled in private plans a year earlier.

Some had worried that an enrollment period that was about half as long as a year ago might mean far fewer people would buy plans, but that was not the case. Last year’s enrollment period ran from Nov. 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2017 and this year’s from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22, 2017.

“We are thrilled by the robust turnout for 2018 coverage,” said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, in a statement. “Our hats are off to our call center, consumer assisters and brokers who helped process roughly as many enrollments as last year during a much shorter open enrollment period. We believe the result will be better access and better health outcomes for Maryland families.”

A big surge came on the last day of enrollment, when 15,000 calls came in, up 25 percent from 12,000 calls a year ago.

Concerns were raised about enrollment this year after insurers raised rates substantially when federal officials stopped some subsidy payments to them that reduced out-of-pocket expenditures for just over half of enrollees. The subsidies that offset the cost of premiums for about 75 percent of consumers in the Maryland market remain intact, and have risen with the price of policies.

The number of people who get tax credits increased from last year. About 121,400 Marylanders will receive a total of $63.9 million in federal tax credits this month. Last January, 94,858 Marylanders received a total of $29.8 million in tax credits.

Maryland’s percentage of residents without health insurance is at a historic low of 6.1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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