ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — State officials plan to contact tens of thousands of Maryland residents who need to re-enroll in health insurance plans under the federal health care law as the state transitions to a revamped system, replacing its flawed website for the next open enrollment period that starts in November.
Carolyn Quattrocki, director of Maryland’s health exchange, told a panel of lawmakers that the state will begin an intensive outreach Wednesday with email and letters to make sure people who initially enrolled under the state’s troubled health care exchange website understand their options on how best to re-enroll.READ MORE: 'It's Ridiculous': Drivers React To Increase In Gas Prices
Chet Burrell, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland-based CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, said the company that serves about 95 percent of the people who enrolled through the exchange, also will reach out to customers who need to re-enroll.
New plans and new rates could offer people better deals, Quattrocki said. Also, people who receive a subsidy for their insurance need to get a new determination about the subsidy they are qualified to receive. Quattrocki said 60,000 to 70,000 people need to re-enroll.
“So, in order to make sure they’re getting an accurate subsidy, they really need to come back through the exchange,” Quattrocki said.
People who are enrolled but don’t re-enroll will still receive coverage. However, people who receive subsidies would need to wait to get a tax credit, instead of receiving it monthly.
Maryland’s system is being revamped with technology from Connecticut, where the rollout went more smoothly. People need to re-enroll because information in the old system doesn’t come over to the new system.
Isabel FitzGerald, Maryland’s secretary of information technology, said the state has cleared several milestones to prepare for the next enrollment period.
However, she said her top concerns are training staff and ensuring equipment works properly.READ MORE: 'Let's Go For It': Western Maryland Residents React To Letters From Republican Lawmakers To West Virginia Asking To Be Adopted By The State
“I think we’ll be prepared for the launch,” FitzGerald said. “I’m also prepared that there will be some things that we may have to tune in that first week, which is one of the reasons the kickoff week is going to be so critical to us, because you can simulate users but what you can’t do is predict unpredictable actual human behavior …”
Maryland is working to bounce back after its flawed exchange website system immediately crashed on Oct. 1 as the first enrollment period began. This time, the state plans a gradual rollout beginning on Nov. 9, a week earlier than planned. That way, people will be able to examine health plans before actually enrolling on Nov. 15.
State officials also underscored greater preparations to help people enroll. For example, the state plans to hold about 25 enrollment fairs around the state where people can get help in person from people with expertise on navigating the website. In the last enrollment period, there were only about six such fairs.
“What we expect is a much easier consumer experience,” Quattrocki said.
Burrell added a note of caution, saying the technology is still being tested.
“We just don’t know what will come out of that testing,” Burrell said.
He also outlined concerns about a diminishing pool of people covered by small employers. He said BlueCross has seen about 14,000 people under small groups coverage leave.
“We’re worried about the erosion of employer-based coverage, because of the price differences that exist between small group coverage and individual coverage,” Burrell said.MORE NEWS: Aromatherapy Spray Linked To US Deaths Faces Recall
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)