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Record number of Marylanders enroll in Obamacare; overall increase is 4.5%

More than 166,000 Marylanders enrolled in health insurance created by the Affordable Care Act for 2021, a record level for the state’s exchange, state officials said Thursday following the end of the sign-up period.

Every county and Baltimore City registered increases in the insurance program known as Obamacare, with an overall jump of 4.5%, or 7,100 people, from this year.

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Officials with the Maryland Health Connection aggressively marketed the exchange and used authority granted by an emergency order from Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, to open a special enrollment period this year targeting people who lost work-related coverage during the pandemic.

“I am pleased to see so many Marylanders taking advantage of our state’s impressive health insurance marketplace, especially as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hogan said in a statement. “With one of the longest COVID-19 special enrollment periods in the country, we continue to work to increase healthcare access and affordability in Maryland.”

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Officials had touted a drop in premiums since the General Assembly passed a reinsurance program that replaced a federal one dropped by the Republican Trump administration that helped insurers offset the cost of the most expensive beneficiaries. Before that program was created in 2018, premiums had shot up and chased consumers and insurers from the marketplace.

Next year, three insurers are offering plans, including Kaiser Permanente and CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, which remains the dominant carrier. UnitedHealthcare also reentered the market after leaving several years ago.

Most people qualified for federal subsidies. Others qualified for free coverage under Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income residents. Residents can enroll in that program year-round.

Officials in Maryland and across the country moved ahead with enrollment even though the Supreme Court is considering the latest GOP-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2010.

The court recently heard arguments in the case, Texas v. United States, to determine whether the health care law remains constitutional without an enforceable “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 are expected to decide the case in coming months.

The law provides coverage for more than 20 million Americans.

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