The Maryland health exchange has enrolled more than 16,700 people in private insurance plans and Medicaid during what was mostly a trouble-free first week for users of the new website.
It took more than two months to enroll that many people last year on the exchange, created under the Affordable Care Act for people who do not get insurance through their employer. The marylandhealthconnection.gov site was so dysfunctional that the exchange board voted to ditch the technology in favor of code written for Connecticut.
Users say the revamped website has been much smoother this year, with only about a half-hour delay for some when they ended up in a virtual waiting room built into the system to handle surges in demand. Last year the site crashed on the first day.
So-called navigator groups contracted by the exchange to help consumers enroll have said they have been able to focus more on providing direction on insurance options and less on the work-arounds they created to get through the process last year.
"Seedco navigators have been providing one-on-one assistance to consumers at multiple sites throughout our region, resulting in successful enrollments," said Phaon K. Spurlock, a spokesman for the navigator group for the Upper Eastern Shore.
"Consumers andSeedco staff have been very pleased with the performance of the new marylandhealthconnection.gov website," he said. "With the improved technology, we are able to provide more help to consumers seeking assistance to enroll in affordable health care coverage."
The health exchange signed up about 460,000 people during the previous open enrollment period, though only about 81,000 signed up for private health insurance and most qualified for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor.
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In the first week of this open enrollment, about half have signed up for Medicaid and half have enrolled in private health plans.
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Maryland's health secretary and the exchange board chair, said there are no targets for enrollment this year.
Everyone who enrolled in private plans last year must re-enroll to keep their subsidies, and those without insurance will pay penalties in 2015 of $325 per person or 2 percent of income, whichever is higher.