ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O'Malley on Thursday signed into law a measure to help people get medical insurance retroactive to Jan. 1, if computer problems with Maryland's health exchange prevented them from signing up in time last year.
The law, which expands a separate state health insurance pool to accommodate people who couldn't enroll through the state's website through no fault of their own, is estimated to affect several hundred people, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said.
"Some have asked me: 'Well, why are we doing this when it affects so few people?' The reason we do this is because if it affects just one family it is worth the effort, especially depending on the condition or the size of a hospital bill or other treatment bill incurred. I mean, that could be the difference between — for some families —between keeping the house and not keeping the house, so it's important for the one," the Democratic governor said. "A lot of the things we do here in fact are done because it's important for one person or it's important for one family."
People who tried to enroll through the Maryland health exchange will be able to be insured by the Maryland Health Insurance Plan.
State officials initially estimated that between a few hundred and 5,000 people could be affected. However, the number has been reduced to the lower amount, because the four insurers participating in the health exchange decided to extend a deadline for coverage, after the O'Malley administration proposed the measure before the legislative session began this month.
Roughly 1,400 households signed up to enroll in private exchange plans under the extended deadline, which ended Jan. 21. Supporters of the measure have described it as a backup plan for people who fall through the cracks.
Meanwhile, work continues to make the state's health exchange website work better. It has been troubled with computer glitches since its debut Oct. 1. The deadline to enroll people in the health care exchange is March 31.
"We are still moving forward to enroll as many people as possible by our March 31st deadline, and we continue to improve every day," O'Malley said.