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More than 66,000 sign up for health insurance via new state ‘marketplace’

More than 66,000 Maine residents used the state's new health insurance marketplace to purchase coverage before the enrollment period ended on Saturday.

That was nearly 11% higher than during the last open enrollment period when Mainers had to use the federal website. Meg Garratt-Reed, who heads Maine's Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace, told lawmakers on Tuesday that more than 80 percent of Mainers getting coverage through the state's CoverMe.gov website also received financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums. Garratt-Reed said the average premium before assistance was $554 but fell to $179 after the stipend, also known as an advance premium tax credit.

And Garratt-Reed said she's pleased that a growing percentage of Mainers chose more comprehensive coverage rather than cheaper plans that have higher deductibles.

"That’s great for us to see because, while top-line our goal is really focused on enrollment and enrolling as many people in coverage as possible, we also really want to make sure we are providing information and tools that help them make the most informed choice for their coverage that is going to be the best value for them over the course of time and not solely when considering premium costs" Garratt-Reed said.

The roll-out of the state’s CoverME.gov website wasn’t without hiccups or frustrations for users, however.

Some users reported problems navigating the site or submitting the documentation needed to prove eligibility. Garratt-Reed said some users encountered issues while migrating their accounts from the federal Affordable Care Act website, healthcare.gov, over to the state’s site. And she said the turn-around time given to consumers from call center contractors was sometimes overly optimistic, particularly for more complex cases.