As we head into 2016 and the last weeks of Open Enrollment, we’re taking a look back at our favorite moments and successes of 2015:
1) More than 382,000 Marylanders have gotten coverage since Open Enrollment started.
As of Dec. 28, 362,520 Marylanders enrolled in health coverage for 2016, including 71,055 Marylanders who chose a new Qualified Health Plan, and 79,238 people already enrolled who renewed their plan for next year. This also includes 212,227 Marylanders who enrolled in Medicaid coverage through the state marketplace since Nov. 1.
An additional 19,515 people bought dental plans for 2016, including 3,526 who bought a standalone plan (without health coverage).
2) It’s easier than ever to make smart choices when shopping for a health plan at MarylandHealthConnection.gov.
For 2016, we offered a streamlined application and more mobile-friendly website. Features to help Marylanders choose the best plan for their needs and budget include available window-shopping before deciding to enroll, and a provider search to help people choose a plan that accepts their preferred doctor.
Improvements to the application process earned us a few tips-of-the-cap in 2015, including being recognized in media as the “Comeback Kid,” and receiving a national IT award for the exchange’s successful system reboot. We also were awarded at the state, national and international levels for our marketing campaigns.
3) Marylanders can save money on their health coverage (a lot).
For 2015, more than 60,000 Maryland households received $208 million in total tax credits to help make coverage more affordable. In fact, nine in 10 Marylanders qualified for financial help to help lower or even waive the cost of health coverage in 2015.
People who enrolled for 2015 also were invited to come back and shop for a different plan for 2016 — especially important because plans’ costs may have increased. For example, a 30-year-old enrolled in a Gold plan could save more than $200 a month by selecting a different plan for 2016.
4) The pizza guy.
At our Dec. 5 enrollment event in Aberdeen, the pizza delivery man signed up on the spot when he heard we were enrolling people in affordable health coverage.
5) Enrollment help was easier than ever to find.
For this year’s Open Enrollment, we launched the “BATphone” — Broker Assistance Transfer pilot program — to connect enrolling consumers with authorized insurance brokers for live help over the phone. More than 1,000 people have enrolled so far in this pilot initiative.
6) The new jingle.
Have you seen our ads yet? The “Health Yeah!” campaign was new this year, featuring a real Baltimore-based navigator who’s a good sport alongside Maryland band Lionize (which has two members covered through Maryland Health Connection).
The TV and radio spots, with a nod to Maryland’s “young invincible” adults, encourage enrollees to get free, in-person help choosing a health plan. You can watch it here and sing along. (Air guitar optional.)
In 2015, Maryland’s enrollment of 26- to 34-yr-olds comprised 19 percent of total enrollment (fourth best of 14 state marketplaces) and 10.7 percent for 18- to 25-year-olds (third best).
7) Maryland businesses got “SHOP”-ing.
Although Maryland’s Small Business Health Options Program launched in 2014, SHOP offered expanded choices for employers this year, including both Employer Choice and Employee Choice.
To help spread the word about the two-year tax credit available for qualifying businesses, SHOP staff speak frequently at Chambers of Commerce and business associations events throughout the state, and we started partnerships with Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development and the Maryland Insurance Administration to distribute materials.
8) Maryland’s uninsured rate dropped.
The rate of uninsured in Maryland dropped from 12.9 percent in 2013 to 7 percent in mid-2015, Gallup reported in early 2015, and the rate is currently eighth-lowest in the U.S.
9) Outreach expanded to Hispanic and black Marylanders.
Efforts to reduce the uninsured rate among Maryland’s African American and Hispanic residents include the upcoming Latino Health Insurance Resource Zone Event, an enrollment event geared to the Hispanic community, in Baltimore’s Highlandtown on Jan. 13. Radio station El Zol will be broadcasting from the event.
We’re also organizing “Super Health Sunday” on Jan. 24 with several predominantly black churches, where navigators will be on site to assist consumers just prior to the end of Open Enrollment for 2016. Meredith Hurston, who writes the blog “The Empowered Mocha Patient,” used Periscope to live-stream our Dec. 13 enrollment event with a Q&A session on enrolling. You can learn more here about these and other upcoming enrollment events.
Since the ACA took effect in 2014, the rates of uninsured African Americans and Latinos were reduced by 7 percent, as compared to 3 percent for whites, according to a recent study at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. These groups were also more likely to visit a primary care doctor and receive timely health care than before the ACA coverage began, researchers said.
10) There are still 31 days left to enroll for 2016.
You can still get health coverage for 2016 (and won’t face this year’s higher tax penalty) by getting covered now through Jan. 31 at MarylandHealthConnection.gov.
If you enroll now through Jan. 15, your health plan will start Feb. 1. If you enroll Jan. 16-31, your plan starts March 1.