‘Less Than Three Fancy Coffee Drinks’: New Program Offers Low-Cost Health Insurance to Young Adults

Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), Del. Kenneth P. Kerr (D-Frederick) and Vinny Demarco, the president of the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition, announce the launch of the State-Based Young Adult Health Insurance Subsidies Pilot Program on Thursday. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Beginning Monday, young adults in Maryland can enroll in a health insurance program through the state’s public health benefits exchange platform for as little as $1 a month.

“This is the year to get coverage,” Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said at a news conference announcing the launch of the State-Based Young Adult Health Insurance Subsidies Pilot Program on Thursday. “It will cost you less than three fancy coffee drinks for the entire year.”

The program, which was co-sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Del. Kenneth P. Kerr (D-Frederick) during the 2021 legislative session, aims to reduce the amount that young people pay for insurance through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, holds a flyer with a QR code to connect people to information about the State-Based Young Adult Health Insurance Subsidies Pilot Program at a news conference Thursday. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

In 2022 and 2023, $20 million in excess funding from the state’s reinsurance program will be used to allow low-income adults aged 18 to 34 earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level to receive health insurance for as little as $1 a month.

Feldman said that “if it works,” he’d like to see the program continue beyond the two years afforded under the legislation.

Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) said Thursday that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults aged 18 to 34 have the highest uninsured rate in the United States.

“I think people have … this idea that healthcare is unaffordable and expensive — a lot of people don’t even try [to get insured],” Elrich said. “We need to let people know it is worth trying; these subsidies absolutely make it affordable to people.”

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R) emphasized that access to health care is “a nonpartisan issue.”

“As the lone Republican in the big eight counties … I want to be a voice out there for everyone to sign up [and] access this care throughout Maryland,” he said.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D), echoed Glassman’s bipartisan message “because we care for all Marylanders,” she said.

“Our work is not limited to our boundaries,” Alsobrooks continued. “Health care absolutely is a right — it is not a privilege — and one of the things that we were able to see so clearly, especially during the pandemic, was that it is just so powerful when we come together how much we’re able to accomplish.”

Alsobrooks also acknowledged that more health insurance coverage means lower premiums for everyone.

“Higher health insurance coverage rates in Frederick County, Anne Arundel County and Harford benefit us all and makes us a stronger, healthier state,” she said. “So during this open enrollment period … we want everyone to please take advantage and to get this affordable health care insurance — help us to build a stronger, healthier Maryland so our state can serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

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Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.