BALTIMORE (AP/WBOC)- Uninsured Maryland residents faced a midnight Monday deadline to enroll in a health care plan in a state that was on the verge of choosing a new system for the next sign-up period due to serious computer problems with its online exchange.
In Baltimore, Said Ali drove from Virginia to help his friend, Sakina Alavi, who doesn't speak English, get enrolled. He said they had an appointment at a downtown Baltimore office where other people were steadily arriving to sign up at the last minute. Ali said it took about 20 minutes to get Alavi signed up.
"It was pretty easy," Ali said, adding that he was happy with the plan his friend was able to get.
Ethel Couser, a 51-year-old Baltimore resident, said she was relieved to be on the verge of getting insurance.
"I just think it's great, because there are so many people that don't have insurance, so I think it's a beautiful thing."
Maryland had a contingency plan for people who have tried to enroll but couldn't because of widespread computer problems that have bedeviled the online exchange since its debut Oct. 1. People who have tried to enroll but have had difficulties can call a hotline to let the exchange know they have tried.
Everyone who calls by the deadline is supposed to get a call and assistance for coverage that begins May 1. The hotline is 1-800-396-1961. Midnight Monday is the deadline for enrollment without paying an IRS penalty under the federal health care overhaul.
Meanwhile, critics of the state's rocky health reform rollout were outspoken about the state's problems, as the board that oversees the exchange was set to meet Tuesday to discuss what to do next for the open enrollment period beginning in November.
Maryland is one of 14 states that created its own health care exchange. Maryland officials have been discussing the possibility of transitioning to Connecticut's online exchange technology. Other options under consideration have been to move to the federal health exchange or make upgrades to Maryland's.
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's lone Republican congressman who has been opposed to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, said the state has no choice but to move to a new exchange.
"Two years and $200 million later, Maryland is back to square one - and will now have to spend tens of millions more to implement Connecticut's exchange," Harris said in a statement Monday. "The board has no choice but to vote yes, however, before even more taxpayer dollars are wasted on the dysfunctional exchange."
Dori Henry, a spokeswoman for Maryland's health department, said the board will meet Tuesday to discuss options for moving forward, but she declined to say whether a vote would take place to make a final decision.
Wednesday, August 27 2014 9:00 PM EDT2014-08-28 01:00:51 GMT
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