By SARAH TINCHER
Capital News Service
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the emergency health insurance bill Thursday that will allow residents who missed the Jan. 1 deadline due to ongoing problems with the state’s health care exchange website to retroactively enroll for coverage under the Maryland Health Insurance Plan.
The legislation will take effect immediately.
With Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr., and House Speaker Michael E. Busch at his side, O’Malley signed the legislation in the State House after it had been circulating through the General Assembly for less than a month and was passed by the Senate only one day prior.
Just before signing the bill, O’Malley said it could help as many as 1,400 people, which is enough for lawmakers to take action.
“The reason we do this is because if it affects just one family, it is worth the effort,” he said.
The O’Malley administration and lawmakers such as Miller have continuously advocated for the passage of the bill, citing residents’ need for health insurance.
“So many people get caught up in crises and they don’t realize that they’re in a crisis until it occurs, and then they have to go to the emergency room or the hospital,” Miller said. “Hospitals are overburdened – they’re not getting the type of care that they would have gotten if they had health insurance and were able to see a general practitioner first.”
Despite troubles with Maryland’s insurance exchange website, O’Malley and some lawmakers are still remaining optimistic about the overall effectiveness of the exchange and pushing to enroll as many residents as possible by the March 31 deadline.
“It’s an evolution, it’s a slow start, but we’re going to make it right,” Miller said.