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How to navigate the colder months in the midst of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we will inevitably be faced with more days of boredom, restlessness, frustration, and burnout. While the future looks promising as the vaccine is distributed, the winter season will be tough to navigate with shorter days and low temperatures. Here are some tips to stay safe and healthy this winter. 

Reduce your risk of getting sick

In addition to wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing, it is important to:

  • Avoid large gatherings and public areas, except for essential places, like grocery stores.
  • Disinfect surfaces like tables, door knobs, counters and other areas in your home, as well as gas pump handles and shopping carts.
  • Take vitamins and other supplements approved by your doctor to recharge your immune system.

According to a study on the spread of COVID-19 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in winter, “the risk goes up, but you can still dramatically reduce your risk by good personal behavior,” says Cory Merow, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut.

Schedule your day

It is important to schedule your day to both maximize your time and promote good habits for mental and physical health. Create a daily routine that includes a set time to wake up in the morning, complete tasks (work and chores), engage in self-care activities, and go to bed. Remember to include plenty of time to get ready, stay connected with friends and family, eat meals, exercise, and take breaks.

Practice good sleep habits

Getting a proper night’s sleep is more important than ever as our bodies work to stay healthy. Sleep may strengthen our immune system, boost our mood, and improve our overall mental health. Here are some ways to improve sleep habits:

  • Wake up/go to bed at the same time each day.
  • Only use your bed for sleep.
  • Spend time in the sunlight.
  • Power electronics off an hour before bedtime.

Stay Active

As routines are interrupted by the pandemic and the temperature outside gets colder, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise. However, regular activity is essential for both mental and physical health. By incorporating movement into your lifestyle, you can improve your mood, your sleep habits, and your immune function. While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five days a week, any exercise may help you stay healthy. Try these activities to get you moving:

  • Practice yoga.
  • Walk or jog.
  • Dance.
  • Jump rope.
  • Climb stairs.
  • Play with your kids.

Find ways to be social

It is important to maintain connections with others while staying safe and social distancing during this pandemic. Some ideas include:

  • Connect with friends and family through phone calls, social media, text, or video chat.
  • Join a virtual interest group in your community.
  • Invite a friend for a socially distanced walk.
  • Have family game and movie nights with people in your household.

We hope these tips will help make the start of 2021 a little more bearable as we get through the winter together.

Blog

Nearly 166,000 Marylanders enrolled in health insurance coverage for 2021; Gov. Hogan reopens special enrollment

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in the positivity rate throughout Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland Health Connection announced womanthat you can still enroll now through Monday, March 15. Coverage dates will vary based on when a Marylander enrolls in a plan:

  • Enroll today–Jan. 15, coverage starts Jan. 1
  • Enroll Jan. 16–Feb. 15, coverage starts Feb. 1
  • Enroll Feb. 16–March 15, coverage starts March 1

You deserve peace of mind when it comes to your and your family's health. Be sure to take the next steps to make the most out of your new health insurance plan. Click here to learn how to use your new health plan and see what’s covered.

Maryland Health Connection saw a record number of enrollments in 2021 health insurance plans this fall. There was a 4.5 percent increase over last year, and enrollment for 2021 grew in every jurisdiction in the state.

The pandemic presented a unique challenge for several residents. Maryland Health Connection launched a special enrollment period in response to the COVID-19 emergency that has covered more than 100,000 Marylanders in Medicaid and private coverage during the past several months. It is among the longest COVID-related special enrollments in the country.

Health coverage through Maryland Health Connection, includes private health plans and Medicaid, covers costs for coronavirus tests at doctor’s offices, urgent care centers or emergency rooms.

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Coronavirus emergency extends special enrollment period until March 15

As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders.

What you need to know

When will your coverage begin?

The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin immediately and ends Monday, March 15. Here are the dates coverage will begin, depending on what day you enrolled in a health plan:

  • Enroll now-Jan. 15, coverage starts Jan.1
  • Enroll Jan. 16-Feb. 15, coverage starts Feb.1
  • Enroll Feb. 16-March 15, coverage starts March.1

How do I enroll?

To enroll, visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or download the free “Enroll MHC” mobile app. When enrolling, you should request or select “Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period.”

Trained navigators and brokers can help you enroll by phone

This enrollment period is for new enrollments of uninsured Marylanders who are eligible, not an opportunity for currently enrolled consumers to change plans.

Can I get help enrolling?

Free consumer assistance is available by calling 855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Deaf and hard of hearing use Relay. Help is available in more than 200 languages. 

We encourage you to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) for all health-related coronavirus questions. 

What do I need to apply?

  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
  • Proof of citizenship or immigration status
  • Tax returns for previous years
  • Employer and income info (pay stubs, W-2 forms)
  • Policy numbers for any current health insurance
  • Information about any job-related coverage you or someone in your household is eligible for

Is Coronavirus covered under a Maryland Health Connection plan or Medicaid? 

Yes. Health insurance companies are required to waive cost-sharing, including lab fees, co-payments, coinsurance, and deductibles for any visit to test for coronavirus at a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or emergency room.

Can I qualify for the Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period even if I’m not sick?

Yes. All eligible, uninsured Marylanders may qualify for this emergency special enrollment period.

Blog

Top 5 tips for a healthy winter

Staying healthy this winter is more important than ever. As coronavirus cases continue to rise, taking care of your family is a top priority. Check out our tips to help your body get ready to combat the coronavirus, the flu and other illnesses this season.

woman meditating

1. Eat healthy 

Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet is essential to help your body fight off illness. Eating vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help prepare your immune system in case you do get sick.

2. Wash your hands 

Hand washing can prevent the spread of several types of infections. Practice proper hygiene to keep yourself and others healthy. Need some hand washing tips? Check out these 5 steps to washing your hands the right way from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

3. Get vaccinated 

Your immune system protects your body from harmful germs. To boost your immune system, stay up-to-date with your vaccines. Get a flu shot! All Maryland Health Connection plans offer vaccinations at no additional cost, even if you haven’t met your deductible. Stop into your local pharmacy or schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor for a flu shot today.

4. Stay active

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it can be a challenge to exercise. Try virtual workout classes or invest in some home exercise equipment. It’s important to maintain your mental and physical health by staying active all year.

5. Take care of yourself

Lastly, a tip a lot of people forget: practice self-care. Activities such as yoga, meditation, sleeping, writing, listening to music and cooking are all great ways to help reduce your stress. Take time to keep your mind, body and soul in peak condition.

Blog

Get peace of mind with Maryland Health Connection plans

We are excited to announce that enrollment for 2021 health plans is going strong! Marylanders have until Dec. 15 to visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov to compare plans side by side and pick the one that works best for your family and your budget. Nine out of 10 people who enrolled last year got savings.

peace of mind graphic

What does my health plan cover?

When you get a plan through Maryland Health Connection, you can rest assured knowing it covers all the important benefits—like doctor visits and mental health care, COVID-19 testing and treatment, flu shots, and more. Another big benefit that comes with having a health plan: peace of mind. We know that feeling is so important, especially as we continue to fight COVID-19.

Over the last eight years, we’ve helped more than one million Marylanders get covered. Although a lot has changed, one thing has remained the same — Maryland Health Connection is here to help you get covered.

Health care in Maryland

Even before the Affordable Care Act, our state was committed to finding solutions to make sure you have access to quality, affordable health coverage. In recent years, Maryland has continued to put in place policies that help you get covered, access care, and stay healthy. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. We will continue to work to make sure you have access to quality, affordable health coverage.

Stay Healthy Maryland!

We join our state leaders in encouraging all Marylanders to mask up, keep a safe distance, wash your hands, and do what you can to stay healthy. That includes protecting yourself with health insurance so you can get the care you need, when you need it.

Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov to enroll, or download our free Enroll MHC mobile app.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube!

Blog

The Maryland Primary Care Program

What is the Maryland Primary Care Program?

The Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP) is a voluntary program open to all Maryland primary care practices with primary care clinicians. The program provides resources to your primary care team to better manage and coordinate your care, at no extra cost to you. These services include:

  • Integration of behavioral health needs with primary care.
  • A care team led by your doctor.
  • Access to links to social services such as transportation, food, housing, and much more.
  • More convenient care options, such as telemedicine, group visits and home visits.
  • Full-time Care Managers to help smooth transition of care, including follow up after hospital admissions and emergency department visits.

According to the Maryland Department of Health, MDPCP was modeled after the CMMI national Comprehensive Primary Care Plus Model​ (CPC+).Over 470 primary care practices in every county in Maryland are participating in this network to support your health. Doctors will also receive technical assistance and data support.

How does the MDPCP affect you?

Maryland Health Connection recently updated the Find a Doctor search tool. To see MDPCP participating doctors, you can click More Filters and select Yes or No next to the brief description of the program to view the list of participating doctors. When you search for a doctor, you can see a notation next to doctors who participate in MDPCP. By choosing a doctor who is part of MDPCP, you will receive additional support with management and prevention of chronic disease.

For more information on the program, please visit the Maryland Department of Health.

 

Blog

Time to browse 2021 health insurance plans and prices!

View new 2021 plans and lower prices now! Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov and click Get an Estimate to browse plans. Open enrollment runs Nov. 1–Dec. 15 for health coverage starting Jan. 1, 2021.

How do I view plans?

Use your phone or computer to compare plans and prices on the MarylandHealthConnection.gov website or by downloading our mobile app, Enroll MHC.

It only takes five minutes to see what coverage and savings you may qualify for. Just choose Get an Estimate, and you’ll see the plans and costs for you and your family. You can apply Nov. 1–Dec. 15 for the plan that best fits you and your family.

Will I receive financial help with my health plan?

Nine out of 10 people who enrolled through Maryland Health Connection this year received free or lower cost coverage. Many Marylanders will pay less for 2021 plans.

What is new for 2021?

A third insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, is returning to the marketplace for 2021, joining CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente.

For a second year, Maryland Health Connection is offering value plans. These health plans offer lower deductibles and useful coverage for more health care services before your deductible is met. They were designed to lower your out-of-pocket costs for the health care services the majority of people use most frequently.

If I’m already enrolled, do I need to do anything?

If you decide not to update your account information during open enrollment, you will be  enrolled automatically into a plan similar to your 2020 insurance plan. We encourage you to take a look at 2021 plans to see what fits your needs and budget. If you’d like to change your plan for 2021, log into your account during open enrollment Nov. 1–Dec. 15, and select Change My Plan. If you cancel your 2020 plan, you will not be enrolled automatically for 2021 coverage.

If I need to renew my Medicaid, should I apply during open enrollment?

If you get a notice that says you need to renew Medicaid coverage for yourself or a household member, you do not have to renew in November or December. Currently all Medicaid coverage is extended until Jan. 31 due to the coronavirus emergency. Before Medicaid benefits end, you'll receive a second notice four to six weeks before the certification extension ends. If you wait to renew until after Dec. 15, you'll get faster assistance when you need it.

Can I still get a 2020 health plan?

Yes! As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders. The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period is open now through Dec.15 for a 2020 plan. Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov to enroll, or download our free Enroll MHC mobile app for Android and iPhone.

 

Blog

Why staying hydrated is important

As the temperatures rise, staying hydrated this summer is important. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “getting enough water every day is essential for your health, and healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking with meals.” However, during the summertime, we find ourselves sweating a lot more – causing our bodies to dehydrate faster than we may realize. It is key that we replenish our fluids during the hot summer months. children eating fruit

To keep your immune system strong, follow these tips to staying hydrated:

  •  Carry a water bottle at work or running errands.
  • Choose water instead of sugary beverages such as soda or juice.
  • Add a lemon or lime wedge to your water.
  • Keep track of your fluid intake and make sure to replenish.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool off.
  • Adjust your exercise based on how hot it is outside.
  • Avoid exercise in extreme heat.

What are other ways to stay hydrated?

According to the CDC, there are recommendations for daily total water intake that can be obtained from a variety of beverages and foods, including:

  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Skim Milk
  • Lettuce
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Celery

I think I’m dehydrated. What can I do?

If you think you may be dehydrated, the Mayo Clinic offers some suggestions:

  • Reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids.
  • See a doctor if you have had diarrhea for 24 hours or more or if you can’t keep down fluids.

If you think you need to see a doctor, it’s valuable to know that you are covered. To enroll in a health plan, visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov before the coronavirus special enrollment period ends on July 15.

 

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How to stay healthy this summer

Summer is almost here and temperatures are beginning to rise. As you ease into a new routine this season, it’s important to remember to keep your body and your mind healthy.Here are five tips to help you take care of yourself. family riding bikes

1. Wear Sunscreen 

Whether you’re going to the beach or just taking a walk, make sure your skin is protected! Look for an SPF 30 and try to wear it whenever you go outside. Even if you’re just running errands, your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays that can damage it.

2. Stay Hydrated

Aim to drink more than eight glasses of water a day when braving the heat. Get creative by  adding some frozen berries, mint leaves or lime slices to your water. Choose snacks with high water content, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and cucumbers.

3. Healthy Summer Recipes

A relaxed summer schedule makes it easy to resort to quick, unhealthy foods. To avoid this trap, prepare easy, nutritious meals for yourself and your family. Cooking Light offers a number of quick, easy recipes that are nutritious and light for summer heat.

4. Connect with Others

Plan something fun with family or friends! If you can’t visit in person due to social distancing, a video call can go a long way. Checking in with people you love is a mood booster, and may help keep negative thoughts away. A weekly phone or video call to friends you haven’t seen in a while is a great way to stay happy this summer!

5. Move Your Body

Added heat can make exercise uncomfortable in the summer. Try to get some exercise in the morning before the sun is at its peak, or break up your day and go for shorter walk breaks. Whether it’s on a beach or around your neighborhood, a walk is a great way to get outside and get exercise!

This summer is bound to be unlike any summer we’ve ever had before. Be sure to stay safe, healthy and active!

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Questions to ask before selecting a health plan

Interested in finding a health plan? Congrats! Picking a health plan can be complicated. Before diving in, here are some photo of checklistquestions you should consider.

What type of plan is it?

Maryland Health Connection offers private health plans from insurance companies you’ll recognize, like CareFirst and Kaiser Permanente. All plans have been certified by Maryland Health Connection to meet certain standards and offer core health benefits.These health plans cover at least 60 percent of your annual medical costs.

All plans sold through Maryland Health Connection cover the same benefits:

  • Doctor visits
  • Hospitalization
  • Emergency care
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Pediatric care, including dental and vision
  • Prescription drugs
  • Laboratory tests
  • Mental health care
  • Substance use disorder treatment

and offer free preventative services such as checkups, vaccinations, blood pressure and diabetes screenings, and more. Some plans offer additional benefits.

How much is the premium?

The premium is the monthly amount that must be paid for your health insurance or plan. You and/or your employer usually pay it monthly, quarterly or yearly. Depending on the type of plan and the amount of coverage you choose, the cost can vary drastically.

How much is the deductible?

The deductible is the amount you owe for covered health care services before your health insurance or plan begins to pay. Generally, plans with lower monthly premiums have higher deductibles. Plans with higher monthly premiums usually have lower deductibles. With a $1,000 deductible, for example, you pay the first $1,000 of covered services. After you pay your deductible, you usually pay only a copayment or coinsurance for covered services. Your insurance company pays the rest.

Are my preferred doctors and hospitals in my network?

If you have favorite doctors or hospitals, it is always a good idea to call and ask which insurance plans they accept. If they do not take your insurance, they are considered out of network. Some plans cover a percentage toward out-of-network providers, and some do not cover them at all.

Do I qualify for financial help?

Depending on your income and household size, you may qualify for different types of financial help. If your income is below a certain level — for example, less than $17,620 for a single person or less than $36,167 for a family of four — you may qualify for Medicaid. Last year, 9 in 10 people who enrolled through Maryland Health Connection qualified for free or reduced cost health coverage. Use this tool to calculate your income and see if you qualify.

Medicaid, MCHP, and MCHP Premium provide health coverage free or at a low cost to eligible individuals.

Need help or have questions?

Hundreds of trained experts are available throughout Maryland to help you apply and enroll. Find help near you.

 

 

 

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