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Enrollment in Maryland health exchange ends Dec. 15

Open enrollment ends Dec. 15 on the state’s health exchange, the online health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

Officials expected extra interest in the insurance, which is for next year, because the coverage, known as Obamacare, has been serving as a health care lifeline to many people who lost employer-related coverage during the coronavirus pandemic.

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About 80,000 people signed up for immediate coverage during a special enrollment period that started in mid-March on the Maryland Heath Exchange.

For the insurance beginning in January, the exchange is offering plans from three insurers, including CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare, which returned to the marketplace for next year after departing a few years ago.

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Exchange officials say that most people are eligible for subsidies to pay premiums and others qualify for free coverage through Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income residents.

The Maryland General Assembly also created a program to replace a federal one that offset spending on the costliest beneficiaries, helping reduce premiums that had grown so high they chased consumers from the program and brought howls of protests from advocates.

There are currently 160,000 people enrolled in private plans through the exchange, up 19% from a year ago, and 1.16 million in Medicaid, up 6% from a year ago. While enrollment ends Tuesday for private plans, people can enroll year-round for Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act does remain under a legal cloud, however. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the case, Texas v. the United States, to determine whether the health care law remains constitutional without the “individual mandate” that had required all Americans to buy coverage. Republicans in Congress, who object to government involvement in health care or costs, eliminated the penalty under the mandate in 2017, and the justices agreed to review whether any of the law still can stand.

A ruling is expecting in coming months.

The law provides coverage for more than 20 million Americans.

To see available plans in Maryland and sign up for coverage go to marylandhealthconnection.gov, download the “Enroll MHC” mobile app or make a toll-free call to 1-855-642-8572 toll-free from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. More than 700 brokers and navigators have been trained to help with enrollment, and many communities plan to host virtual events to help people secure coverage.

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