Sun Investigates

Health insurance bill arrives with a higher price tag than expected

When the bill arrived from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, I expected to open it and see that I owed $250 by March 15.

Instead it was for $286. That's $36 more than Maryland health exchange website showed my insurance plan would cost.


This was the latest snafu in my quest to buy health insurance through the state's troubled online exchange, which has been beset for months by technical problems. The enrollment process took me five hours and 22 minutes and included two calls to the exchange's call center, seven attempts to enter my personal information, two computers and two web browsers.

Dori Henry, a spokeswoman for the exchange, said users have recourse when they feel an error has been made.


"Individuals who believe a mistake has been made related to their eligibility or enrollment can file a request for a review of their case," Henry said. "Once that process is complete, a consumer who is still dissatisfied may request a hearing through the appeals process."

The bill notwithstanding, this part of the process was decidedly smoother than the enrollment portion. The information about my choice moved as it was supposed to from the exchange website to the insurer — an electronic process that recently had not been working properly.

Exchange officials said that glitch has been fixed, along with many others that I experienced when I signed up over two days in late January. A bill for my dental insurance hasn't arrived yet.

Sun readers had been telling editors and reporters about their troubles with the system since its faulty launch Oct. 1. And when Gov. Martin O'Malley went on national television and said the site was functional for most users, the editors asked me to find out what functional meant.

I searched for plans that would give me the same level of coverage offered by my employer. In the end, the coverage would cost me more than what I pay out-of-pocket for my employer-provided insurance, so I won't be using the new insurance after all.

So far, the number of people using the exchange to find private coverage remains far below expectations.

Officials reported Friday in their weekly report that 29,059 people have enrolled through exchange in private insurance plans, up just over 2,200 from the week before. Combined with those who enrolled in expanded Medicaid through the exchange and those moved automatically from a state program to Medicaid, a total of 169,475 people have gotten insurance.

Open enrollment ends March 31.