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Commentary Health Care Working & the Economy

Law is helping people filing unemployment insurance claims get health care coverage image by s_l.

By Vincent DeMarco

The writer is president of the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition.

The tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore caused six deaths and upended the lives of countless workers who lost jobs due to the closure of the Port of Baltimore. Thanks to efforts by federal, state and local officials, these workers are getting support to help them get by.

One program has played a quiet, but critical role in supporting laid-off workers who lost access to their workplace benefits along with their income. Under legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2021 with the critical support of the Maryland Health Care For All Coalition, people filing claims for unemployment insurance can easily start the process of enrolling in affordable health insurance — by simply checking a box on their unemployment application.

This program is a commonsense approach that gives laid-off workers a straightforward way to get health insurance. According to the March 2024 data report from Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE), 68,483 people checked the box to begin enrollment over the preceding 12 months. Of those, 24,278 enrolled in coverage — 18,520 in Medicaid and 5,758 in private plans.

It was gratifying to hear that MHBE recently reported that people affected by the Key Bridge collapse have been taking advantage of this provision to get health insurance as they apply for unemployment benefits.

This provision is an innovative approach that takes the stress out of enrolling in health insurance. We are grateful to the two lead sponsors who championed this idea and got it passed: Sen. Jim Rosapepe, vice chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and Del. Lorig Charkoudian, chair of the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee of the House Economic Matters Committee.

The Maryland Health Care for All Coalition will continue to advocate for other steps to continue Maryland’s progress toward making health insurance affordable and accessible to all. We urge other states and the federal government to follow our lead.


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Law is helping people filing unemployment insurance claims get health care coverage