Maryland falls short of insurance enrollment goal

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Local,Maryland,Montana

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Newly released figures show that Maryland fell far short of projections enrolling residents for private insurance through its troubled health exchange, even as national enrollment figures exceed expectations.

Numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services show that, through April 19, 67,757 Marylanders have signed up for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Last year, federal officials had projected that 150,000 Marylanders would enroll.

Maryland is one of 14 states that opted to create its own health-insurance exchange, and it was plagued with problems as soon as it debuted in October.

Maryland officials decided last month to scrap the existing system and replace it with technology used to power Connecticut's health exchange.

State officials blamed contractors for failing to deliver what they promised.

About 29 percent of those who signed for marketplace plans in Maryland are ages 18-34, roughly in line with the national average of 28 percent. Experts say that enrolling young people is crucial to the long-term success of the health reform, because as a whole they are healthier than older people and help balance out the cost-benefit ratio.

Open enrollment for 2014 is now closed. Maryland had extended the enrollment period through April 18, in part because of the difficulties people faced in signing up through the exchange.

Those who enrolled in qualified plans effective May 1 have until May 15 to complete payment to their insurance company.

The failed health exchange has become a major issue in Maryland's gubernatorial campaign. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor, had been charged by the O'Malley administration with overseeing Maryland's implementation of health care reform. Brown's chief opponent in next month's primary, Attorney General Doug Gansler, has been critical of Brown's performance.

Nationally, more than 8 million people have enrolled in a marketplace plan, exceeding the projection of 7 million from last year.

While Maryland has lagged in enrolling residents on private health plans, it has exceeded projections in expanding Medicaid coverage.

The state reports that nearly 263,000 Marylanders have gained Medicaid coverage in 2014.

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