WBAL Fox Baltimore
Dec 16, 2014
Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange has enrolled nearly 106,000 Marylanders for health coverage since November 15. This Thursday is the deadline for citizens to enroll in a health plan to be eligible for federal subsidies and to begin receiving coverage by January 1.
Vinny DeMarco, who heads the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition, says “Despite the glitches last year, more than 500,000 people have gotten health care who didn’t have it before or had very poor health care coverage.”
But for five hours on Monday, the Health Exchange’s call center unexpectedly shut down. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says the glitch may have been caused by the huge volume of callers seeking to enroll.
“We are so far ahead of where we were last year and I think the volumes have been difficult for the call center a little bit but we expect that to improve,” said Sharfstein, who is leaving the state at the end of December to take a job with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
During the Health Exchange’s board meeting in Baltimore Tuesday, Executive Director Carolyn Quattrocki praised her staff for helping to get the exchange’s website back on track.
“And we knew everything we were doing wasn’t going to matter if the website didn’t work and by God, it works,” said Quattrocki.
But some citizens seeking health coverage say they have still experience problems with trying to enroll. Barry Horowitz, who lives in Federal Hill, says he spent two days on the state’s website and then waiting on the helpline but has still not formally enrolled in a health plan.
Horowitz says he is also upset by what he calls the lack of health care choices he has been offered. “I’m getting less coverage, it’s costing a lot more and it’s not doing the same,” said Horowtiz, who fears he may not be enrolled by Thursday’s deadline.
But Vinny DeMarco says residents should not give up. “If you’re uninsured today or you got insured last time and haven’t re-enrolled, do it so you can get the health care coverage you need,” said DeMarco.