Maine launching state-run health insurance marketplace for 2022 enrollment

Oct. 4—Maine will launch its own state-run health insurance marketplace in November, which means that people buying Affordable Care Act insurance for 2022 will be purchasing it through a new state website.

Starting Nov. 1, people signing up for ACA insurance in Maine will go through the website rather than the federal government's website, where Maine people have bought Obamacare insurance since 2014. All New England states except New Hampshire have been using state-based marketplaces rather than the federal marketplace. A total of 15 states have set up state-operated marketplaces.

The federal government also approved new state marketplaces for Kentucky and New Mexico on Monday. The open enrollment period goes from Nov.1 to Jan. 15, 2022, but consumers need to enroll by Dec. 15 to have coverage begin on Jan. 1. Enrollees who are happy with their current plans will be automatically re-enrolled.

Jeanne Lambrew, Maine's health and human services commissioner, said that Maine can "customize the enrollment process to fit our state's needs."

"The marketplace will give Maine people better access to affordable health insurance options when open enrollment kicks off on Nov. 1," Lambrew said in a statement.

Mitchell Stein, a Maine-based independent health policy consultant, said the plans purchased will be the same, but having a state-run marketplace gives Maine some minor advantages.

"The state has more control and will be better able to personalize the outreach efforts," Stein said. "Assuming everything works as intended, the website should be very transparent for the end user, but they will be buying the same plans."

Ann Woloson, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, a Maine-based health advocacy group, said that having a state-run website will allow Maine to tailor the website to the state's specific needs.

"State-based exchanges can also better target its outreach activities geared toward getting information out about coverage options. It can also, ultimately, work more efficiently with other state agencies, such as the department of labor, corrections and taxation, to link people to the (marketplace) for assistance in sorting through options and enrolling in coverage."

Since 2020, Maine has been operating a hybrid form of the marketplace, with the state taking over marketing and outreach activities, but still leaving signups to

About 55,000 people in Maine have ACA marketplace insurance, which is down from about 70,000 in 2019, largely because Maine implemented Medicaid expansion in 2019. The expansion resulted in about 85,000 Maine people gaining access to Medicaid.

The Biden administration beefed up subsidies for ACA enrollees through the American Rescue Plan bill, and now 25 percent of enrollees have a monthly premium of $10 or less.