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After the first open enrollment period in the state health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, Calvert Healthcare Solutions Inc. is preparing for the next open enrollment period to begin late this fall.

The first enrollment period, which ended March 31, came with challenges to the organization’s newly increased staff of 18. The state’s health insurance enrollment website difficulties led to the staff filing the paperwork by hand. CONNECT Southern MD, a program of Calvert Healthcare Solutions, is a nonprofit organization that serves the three Southern Maryland counties.

“It’s no secret that there were major difficulties with the enrollment part of the website,” said Michael Shaw, executive director. “… It frustrated the consumers.”

But many were able to sign up for health care for the first time, Shaw said. In addition to helping people actually sign up for a plan, the program seeks to teach health-care literacy. Staff members explain the different terminologies and how to choose a doctor.

Some people didn’t know there are co-payment fees outside of the monthly premium, said Elizabeth Conty, certified navigator for Calvert Healthcare Solutions.

During the open enrollment period, 2,516 people signed up for insurance with the help of Calvert Healthcare Solutions. Of those, 673 were from Calvert County, 1,285 from Charles County and 558 from St. Mary’s County, Conty said.

Shaw said, through the first open enrollment period, they learned it is better for people to schedule their appointments, although walk-ins are allowed. Additionally, in the next open enrollment period, the organization will take with it the knowledge that it’s not always possible to get in touch with someone to follow up after an appointment and to get all of the information out in the first encounter just in case the client can’t be contacted again.

But until the next open enrollment period, which is scheduled to run Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, some residents may be eligible to enroll in a plan through Maryland Health Connection if they have experienced a qualifying life event, according to a press release.

These kinds of events include a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, COBRA coverage expiring, change in immigration status, change in household income, no longer being covered by a parent’s plan because a person has turned 26 years old, loss of health coverage due to job loss or reduction of hours, moving to Maryland from another state and the legal separation or divorce from or the death of the policy holder, according to the release.

Generally, after experiencing one of these life events, there is a 60-day special enrollment period to sign up for or change coverage, the release states.

For help signing up for health care during the special enrollment period or during the upcoming open enrollment, call 1-855-339-3007.

sfleischman@somdnews.com