by Bryan Renbaum,

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation teamed up with state lawmakers and local officials on Wednesday to urge Marylanders that do not have health insurance to take advantage of the state’s extended open enrollment period which ends on July 15.

Those who are interested in signing up for coverage can do so on the state’s health care exchange,, or by checking a box on their state income tax return stipulating that they are uninsured. Once the box is checked Marylanders have the option of choosing to have their information shared with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to provide them with information about eligibility for coverage.

About 90 percent of Marylanders who purchase policies on the exchange receive a subsidy vis-a-vis the Affordable Care Act (ACA). July 15 is the extended deadline for filing both state and federal income taxes.

“It is very very important for our citizens who need health care to get on their computer, get on their phone or whatever device they use to communicate to make sure that they can get the coverage they need,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) said at a virtual news conference that was held on the video meeting site Zoom. The Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative sponsored the conference.

“If you need it, do it today,” Hoyer added.

Hoyer slammed the Trump administration’s lawsuit which is aimed at overturning the ACA.

“At the very moment, we are fighting COVID-19 and trying to protect the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our communities they’re trying to repeal and overturn the Affordable Care Act. They’re trying to take coverage away from those with pre-existing conditions.”

Hoyer noted that those with pre-existing conditions such as “diabetes, heart disease, lung disease,” are “particularly vulnerable” to COVID-19.

Rep. Jon Sarbanes (D) said it is “very critical” that Marylanders are insured during the pandemic.

“There’s eight days left. Please take advantage of the special enrollment period,” he said.

Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) sponsored the legislation that created Maryland’s Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program along with Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s). The program is the first of its kind in the nation.

Feldman explained how the tax identification part of the program works.

“You check that box and in realtime the information is shared on the exchange. And the exchange will look and find if you’re eligible for Medicaid, if you’re eligible for federal tax credits-to help you get health insurance for you and your family.”

Feldman said thus far 50,000 Marylanders have checked the box on their state income tax return saying that they do not have health insurance.

Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) praised Maryland’s lawmakers for working in a bipartisan manner to reduce health care costs.

“Legislators on both sides of the aisle rolled up their sleeves and came up with a resourceful solution to the problem of health insurance premiums that were so high that consumers couldn’t afford them.”

West urged uninsured Marylanders not to let the deadline for enrollment pass.

“In the face of the current pandemic no one should run the risk of being uninsured. Please don’t let the current window for singing up close.”

There are 70,861 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 3,149 people in Maryland have died from the virus.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...