Maryland’s newly rebuilt online health insurance marketplace was scheduled to fully open for business on Wednesday. But as some shoppers browsed the site on Monday, they discovered that they could make it all the way through the enrollment process, two days ahead of time.
On Tuesday, state health officials went ahead and announced that the site was fully open for business.
“It’s on!” Joshua M. Sharfstein, Maryland’s top health official and leader of the exchange’s governing board, tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Marylandhealthconnection.gov open for signing up from home, a day earlier than planned.”
Unlike other state exchanges and the federal marketplace, Maryland opted for a “soft launch” of its exchange, which sells health insurance plans made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Maryland’s first attempt at launching an exchange last year crashed on its first day and barely functioned for months. Maryland spent more than $40 million to quickly rebuild the system before the second open enrollment period started on Saturday.
The newly rebuilt Maryland Health Connection Web site went live on Nov. 9, allowing people to browse through plans but not buy anything. On Saturday, Marylanders who showed up to an enrollment fair in Anne Arundel County had access to the system. On Sunday, residents could enroll by calling the exchange’s help line. The plan was to slowly open access to even more people on Monday and Tuesday, with full access granted on Wednesday. This staggered approach was designed to give the exchange’s staff time to find and fix any lingering problems before thousands of shoppers arrived.
Sharfstein said the rollout has been smooth and drama-free. As of early Tuesday afternoon, more than 2,300 people had enrolled in private health insurance plans through the exchange — and, of those, about 1,500 enrolled on Monday alone. Many of those people were likely assisted by a trained navigator, Sharfstein said in an interview.
“So many people found it on their own yesterday,” Sharfstein said, “that we decided to tell people about it.”