Open enrollment begins today at the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange and will continue for two weeks into the new year, with benefits still available for most people.

It’s been a decade since the Affordable Care Act allowed people to purchase their health insurance through online marketplaces operated by states or the federal government. Enrollment in Maryland through MarylandHealthConnection.gov has grown over time, with many people accessing insurance during special enrollment periods during the coronavirus pandemic.

Exchange officials hope the trend will continue by promoting the care of sudden medical needs.

“Many of the savings available in 2022 have been extended through 2023, resulting in free and low-cost plans,” Michelle Eberl, CEO of the Maryland Health Exchange, said in a statement. “Accidents happen. You never know when you might need emergency care or see a doctor or specialist. With health insurance, you are covered when the unexpected happens.”

Additional federal benefits were extended through the Federal Inflation Reduction Act as well as other youth benefits. Rates have also been reduced through the government’s reinsurance program that helps insurance companies cover the cost of the most expensive beneficiaries.

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Plans start January 1 for those who register by the end of the year and February 1 for those who register in the first two weeks of January. Those who enroll in Medicaid, the federal health insurance plan for low-income residents that operates year-round.

Participants can obtain assistance with registering online at MarylandHealthConnection.gov/help or through an exchange broker by calling 855-642-8572.

People can buy directly from the insurance company if they don’t receive benefits, although most people qualify and costs have risen this year due to inflation and the pandemic.

State insurance officials reported that those who buy their policies from the three carriers that offer individual plans — known as Obamacare — will pay an average of 6.6% more, despite the carriers charging less than required earlier this year.

About 232,000 people bought plans through the exchange or directly from the insurance company this year, and most of them did not offer insurance policies through their employers.

Insurance officials report that rates for 40-year-old Baltimore residents with the lowest silver cost for a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield HMO plan will rise to about $335 a month. This plan currently covers most of Maryland’s residents.

Premiums for those silver plans will go up to about $513 for those enrolled in a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield PPO plan, go up to about $350 for those on the United Healthcare HMO plan, and go up to about $268 for those on the Kaiser Permanente HMO plan.

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