- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

About 80,000 people have signed up for private health insurance through Maryland’s revamped, online exchange since Nov. 15, nearly equaling in about four weeks the number who enrolled in the program’s troubled first year, state officials said Friday.

Gov. Martin O’Malley credited the rebuilt website and an outreach effort featuring 22 in-person “enrollment fairs” - four times more than last year - to teach people how to use the exchange.

“I also commend the hundreds of partners, navigators, brokers and carriers who are working to make our system successful and ultimately keep more Marylanders healthy,” the Democratic governor said in a written statement.

Officials said 79,987 people selected private plans as of Thursday, the deadline for obtaining coverage starting Jan. 1. The 90-day enrollment period continues through Feb. 15.

During the first enrollment period, which lasted six months, a total of 81,091 people selected private plans. That number was far short of the 150,000 the state had hoped to enroll in private plans in the first year.

The state did not announce goals for the second enrollment period but officials were pleased with the results.

“This is a great day for public health in Maryland,” said Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The exchange reported nearly 57,000 Medicaid enrollments through Thursday.

Marylanders seeking private plans can still enroll through Feb. 15. If they enroll by Jan. 18, their coverage starts Feb. 1. If they enroll by Feb. 15, coverage begins March 1.

The insurance exchange is part of the national health-insurance overhaul, the Affordable Care Act of 2012.

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