Maryland’s state and local leaders came together Thursday to urge young adults between the ages of 18-34 to take advantage of a new state subsidy that is designed to make health insurance more affordable.

The officials spoke at a news conference that was sponsored by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and was held at the Ellicott City 50+ Center.

Their message comes just days ahead of the start of the state’s open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 1-Dec.15.

During open enrollment, those who do not have health insurance can buy a plan on the state’s exchange.

The $20 million subsidy comes from the state’s reinsurance program and is made possible via legislation that was sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, and Del. Ken Kerr, D-Frederick.

The subsidy is part of a two-year pilot program that could later be made permanent.

Under it, individuals who make up to $50,000 a year are eligible, as are families that makeup to $100,000 annually.

“These subsidies will make an immense impact on residents who currently find health insurance out of reach,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said.

“A 28-year-old in Howard County earning approximately $30,000 per year can sign up for a Gold health care plan for as little as $1 per month. Previously this plan could have cost as much as $70 per month,” Ball added.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, the lone Republican present, said the subsidies will help many rural Marylanders purchase health insurance.

“Folks 18 to 34 need health care throughout Maryland. Not only in our larger jurisdictions. But in our smaller rural counties on the eastern shore and in western Maryland-even in the northern ends of Harford County. This now opens the door for that generation of young people to access health care for themselves.”

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the pandemic is proof that having access to affordable health insurance is essential.

“The last 18 months made painfully clear how important it is to have continuous health care coverage because you never know when you may need it. This legislation is right on time for our residents and for all Marylanders.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the subsidies are a game-changer in the marketplace.

“People have kind of been brought along with this idea that health care is unaffordable and too expensive. A lot of people do not even try. We need to let people know it is worth trying. These subsidies absolutely make it affordable to people.”

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman made a direct plea to young adults to take advantage of the subsidies and buy health insurance.

“Speaking directly to folks who are in the 18-34 age group: ‘Please. Please. Please. You are not invincible. You do need health insurance.”

Feldman said the legislation is modeled after a similar bill that passed in Massachusetts and has led to substantial premium reductions.

“This idea of providing a $20 million subsidy over the next two years for low-income young adults…It is not only great to help those folks get health insurance, but it breaks down premiums for everybody else. We have to have healthy people in the risk pool. The more healthy people we have in the risk pool, it helps the premiums come down for everybody else.”

Kerr followed up on that point.

“What this bill will do-once we get these young healthy Marylanders into the exchanges-we will broaden the risk pool. We will stabilize the exchanges. And our data indicates that we will see everyone’s premiums drop. “

This article was originally published on on Thursday, October 28, 2021.

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