ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Thousands of Maryland residents already have started shopping for health care plans on the state's extensively revamped exchange website, which opened last week for browsing without any reported problems. The state is seeking a slow but smooth second rollout after a difficult and widely criticized first year in which the website crashed just after opening.
While people this year have been able to look at pricing on the website for nearly a week, they will soon be able to enroll in different ways over several days. Then, the website is scheduled to open Wednesday for people to sign up on their own.
After all the computer bugs and headaches in the first enrollment period, the state is offering more in-person assistance to help consumers and businesses this time around.
Here are some things to know about the gradual rollout:
DO IT AGAIN
People who enrolled in insurance plans last year are being urged to sign up again between Nov. 15 and Dec. 18, so those eligible can receive financial help with plans that start Jan. 1. The state has more insurance carriers now than it did in the first enrollment period, and that competition has led to new offerings and potentially better deals. People who receive a subsidy for their insurance need to get a new determination about what they qualify for.
People can start signing up in a new plan Saturday by attending a fair at Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie, where they can get help enrolling. It's the first of about 25 fairs planned across the state - four times the number held in the last enrollment period. On Nov. 22, two fairs are scheduled. One will be in western Maryland in Grantsville at the Garrett County Department of Social Services. The other will be on the Eastern Shore in Salisbury at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. All but one of the 12 scheduled fairs so far are on weekends. The remaining fairs have not yet been scheduled. They are free.
CALL IT IN
Maryland's call center opens Sunday to take applications for insurance over the phone. The number is 855-642-8572. The call center was another source of problems during the first enrollment period, partly because it was deluged with calls when the website encountered problems. Last month, the board overseeing the exchange approved a contract aimed at easing call volume.
BROKERS AND NAVIGATORS
On Monday, all authorized insurance brokers and navigators are scheduled to be able to complete enrollments through the website. They also will be able to provide in-person consumer assistance.
Caseworkers at local health departments and departments of social services are set to begin enrolling customers Tuesday through the website.
MarylandHealthConnection.gov is scheduled to open Wednesday for people to enroll themselves through the website.
The second open enrollment period ends Feb. 15.
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