by Diane Bernard, Public News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With COVID-19 cases among younger Marylanders on the rise, state and federal lawmakers are urging residents to sign up for health care coverage by tomorrow’s deadline.

In a virtual news conference late last week, Reps. Jamie Raskin and Steny Hoyer talked about how the state’s health care exchange reopened the insurance signup period early in the spring when the pandemic hit and folks were losing their jobs. Raskin encouraged Marylanders to sign up while they can – especially as we face a worldwide health crisis.

He challenged the idea that the virus is a hoax, saying it needs to be taken seriously by everyone.

“This virus is teaching us that there’s no part of the population that’s immune, that’s invulnerable,” Raskin said. “It doesn’t matter what your political party affiliation is. You can be left, you can be right. You can get this disease and you can get sick and you can get hurt.”

Sign-up for coverage through the state’s health care exchange is available on the Maryland Health Connection website until midnight Tuesday night. Uninsured tax filers also can take advantage of the “Easy Enrollment Program” by checking the box on their state returns – also due on Tuesday – to find out if they’re eligible.

House Majority Leader Hoyer put the state’s sign-up program in context of the national debate over health care policy. He said President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are trying to take apart the Affordable Care Act during the pandemic, when people need health care the most.

“They’re trying to take coverage away from those with pre-existing conditions at a time when these pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, compromised immune systems [make patients] particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” Hoyer said.

According to research by the Urban Institute, nearly three-fourths of the country’s 30 million uninsured people younger than age 65 were eligible for health coverage programs in 2017 but did not enroll.