Obtaining Health Insurance In Maryland Is Now As Easy As Filing Income Taxes

More than 130,000 Maryland residents were reported without health insurance in 2019 but were eligible for free or low-cost coverage.

However, many failed to enroll because state officials said the application process was too difficult to navigate.

Thanks to a first of its kind program created by the state General Assembly, residents may find the process as simple as checking a box when filing their tax returns this year.

This tax season marks the beginning of the Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program, which allows those without health insurance to simply check a box on their state income tax return to start the process of enrolling in a health plan.

Once the box is checked, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange will determine a tax filer’s eligibility for Medicaid and free or low-cost private insurance.

State officials will then follow up with a letter notifying whether an individual qualifies for insurance. Accompanying the letter are instructions about how to complete enrollment.

“I think it’s an unbelievable thing to get people to come out and get some healthcare,” said Hall of Fame Baltimore Oriole star Eddie Murray, who appears in various ads on radio and online promoting the new health insurance initiative.

The legend attended a special event last month in Baltimore to announce the program with Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

“Many people are eligible for free or low-cost health insurance right now and don’t even know about it, but by checking the box they can find out what type of health insurance they are qualified for,” said Stephanie Klapper, the deputy director for the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition.

“It’s easy, and that’s why we call it easy enrollment. We hope by having these boxes on the tax return, people will see it and have the information sent to them,” Klapper stated, adding that Maryland is the first state in the country to adopt such an initiative. “Other states are reaching out, and hopefully, this is a model for them.”

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Maryland has made remarkable progress enrolling families into health insurance, according to Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

Enrollment in Maryland’s health insurance exchange grew to a four-year high last year, “even as the federal government has thrown up hurdle after hurdle in an attempt to undermine the law,” DeMarco said. “The new program makes the enrollment process easier than in the past, and many people will be pleasantly surprised to find that they can obtain high-quality insurance at a low cost.

“Health insurance helps families’ financial security and makes it more affordable for the newly enrolled to visit the doctor, fill prescriptions and take care of other health needs.

“Expanding the pool of people covered by insurance lowers premiums for everyone. Among other things, hospitals will face less need to provide uncompensated care to people who can’t pay for services. This lowers what they charge to patients who do have insurance.”