Frequently asked questions about health insurance
coverage options in Maryland
Maryland operates a state-run health insurance marketplace – Maryland Health Connection. The health insurance marketplace was authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read more about the Maryland health insurance marketplace.
Open enrollment in Maryland for 2021 coverage ended on December 15, 2020. And although the state offered a COVID/American Rescue Plan enrollment window in 2021, it ended on August 15, 2021. So to enroll or change plans for 2021 coverage, a qualifying event is now necessary.
In states that use HealthCare.gov, HHS has extended the open enrollment window through January 15. But they provided flexibility to states that run their own exchanges (like Maryland), allowing them to have an earlier deadline, as long as it’s not earlier than December 15.
Maryland’s enrollment deadline might change as the fall goes on, but for now, Maryland residents should plan to have their 2022 enrollments finalized by December 15, 2021.
Three insurers – CareFirst (including HMO and PPO entitied), Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare – are offering individual-market health plans for 2021 through the Maryland exchange.
All three will continue to offer coverage for 2022.
Thanks to the state’s reinsurance program, premiums are quite a bit lower in Maryland than they were a few years ago. Average pre-subsidy (full price) premiums in Maryland’s individual market decreased by an average of 13% in 2019, by another 10% in 2020, and decreased by nearly 12% for 2021.
For 2022, average full-price premiums in the state’s individual market will increase by 2.1%.
During the open enrollment period for 2020 coverage, 158,934 people enrolled in private plans through Maryland’s exchange – the highest enrollment had been since 2016, when more than 162,000 people enrolled. Enrollment hit a new record high during the open enrollment period for 2021 coverage, however, with 166,038 people selecting or renewing coverage for 2021.
Maryland offered the nation’s longest COVID-related special enrollment period, which ran continuously from March 2020 through August 15, 2021.
The state also implemented a new “easy enrollment” program in 2020 that helps people get medical insurance in Maryland based on information from their state tax returns. Enrollment in private plans through Maryland Health Connection reached an all-time high during the open enrollment period for 2021 coverage.
Read our full overview of the Maryland health insurance marketplace.
Medicaid is a health insurance option available for people with little or very low income or people who have a disability. Medicaid is a joint state and federal program. The federal government defines broad requirements, and the state determines eligibility levels and operates the program. Some people qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare.
Maryland expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, and enrollment in the state’s Medicaid and CHIP coverage has increased by 74% since 2013. The federal government pays 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion, while the state pays the remaining 10%.
Visit the Maryland Department of Health website to learn more about the state’s Medicaid program. Like most states, Maryland uses private insurers to administer managed care plans for many of the state’s Medicaid enrollees. Maryland’s health insurance exchange has additional information about the insurers that offer Medicaid plans in the state.
Read more about Medicaid expansion in Maryland.
The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program was created through the ACA to spur the creation of nonprofit, consumer-run health insurance companies. Evergreen Health Cooperative in Maryland was one of 24 CO-OPs to receive a federal loan.
But as was the case with most of the CO-OPs, Evergreen is no longer offering coverage. They offered small group coverage for 2017, but not individual-market coverage.
They had planned to switch to a for-profit entity and begin offering individual market coverage again for 2018, but by the summer of 2017 the state announced that the private investors who had planned to purchase the CO-OP had pulled out of the deal, and the CO-OP was placed in receivership.
Read more about ACA’s CO-OPs.
Maryland politics are dominated by Democrats at the state and federal level, and the Affordable Care Act has broad support among Maryland leaders. Governor Larry Hogan is a Republican, but has shown a willingness to work across the aisle to implement health care reform measures in the state, including a reinsurance program and the “easy enrollment” program that utilizes tax return data to help ensure that residents are getting the health coverage assistance for which they’re eligible.
When the ACA was passed in 2010, both Maryland Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski voted in favor of the law, as did all but one of the state’s eight U.S. Representatives. Mikulski has since been replaced by Chris Van Hollen, who is also a Democrat and supporter of the ACA.
The Maryland legislature approved a state-run health insurance marketplace, and then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the bills into law in 2011. The state marketplace, called the Maryland Health Connection, was one of the first approved by the federal government.
Despite the state’s early start, its marketplace performed poorly. So poorly, in fact, that the state abandoned its technological infrastructure and purchased the platform that Connecticut had been successfully using. Since then, Maryland Health Connection has been a successful state-run marketplace.
Medicaid expansion is a key ACA strategy for reducing the uninsured rate, and Maryland was among the states that expanded Medicaid as soon as that option became available, with coverage effective in January 2014.
Maryland experienced a significant drop in its uninsured rate after the ACA’s individual mandate went into effect. According to US Census data, 10.2 percent of Maryland residents were uninsured in 2013, and that had fallen to 6 percent in 2018 (it remained at 6 percent in 2019, and did not experience the slight uptick in the uninsured rate that many other states saw in 2019). Nationwide, the average uninsured rate was 14.5 percent in 2013, and 8.9 percent in 2019.
Maryland HB1782 – enacted in 2018 – limits short-term plan duration to three months and prohibits renewal. So the current federal short-term rules allowing for extended short-term plans do not apply in Maryland.
The state also mandates the inclusion of various benefits in short-term plans sold in Maryland.
Read more about short-term health insurance in Maryland.
As of early 2021, 1,062,738 Maryland residents were enrolled in Medicare.
The annual Medicare enrollment period for private Medicare plans (Part D and Medicare Advantage) runs from October 15 to December 7, with coverage effective January 1. There is also an annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period (for people who already have Advantage coverage) that runs from January 1 to March 31.
You can read our overview of Medicare in Maryland for more information about Medicare Advantage and Part D availability, as well as the state’s rules for Medigap plans.
In the individual health insurance market prior to 2014, applications were medically underwritten in nearly every state, including Maryland. Because medical history was used to determine eligibility for coverage, people with pre-existing conditions often found themselves unable to purchase comprehensive plans in the private market.
The Maryland Health Insurance Plan (which has now been phased out) had been providing coverage since 2003 for people who were denied plans in the private market because of pre-existing conditions, or offered only plans that excluded their pre-existing conditions.
Under the ACA, medical history is no longer an eligibility factor for private health insurance. The need for high-risk pools has thus been largely eliminated, but some risk pools are still operational.
In 2013, MHIP released a plan for transitioning their members to the exchange. But Maryland’s exchange was one of the more technologically challenged during the first open enrollment period, and in December 2013, the MHIP board voted to extend MHIP Standard plans until the end of 2014, and MHIP Plus plans until the end of March 2014. In January 2014, MHIP also became a temporary insurer for Maryland residents who were unable to secure coverage in the Maryland exchange because of website problems during the first few months of 2014 open enrollment. MHIP stopped providing coverage as of January 1, 2015.