Baltimore (EPA photo)

Managers of the new health insurance exchange programs are wondering if they’ll get another big wave of activity in March, as a major enrollment deadline looms.

State-based exchanges saw activity spike in late December, but, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of individuals selecting private exchange plan coverage fell 44 percent between December and January.

Many state-based exchanges that used to issue weekly activity reports have either stopped issuing weekly figures or now issue weekly figures only sporadically.

Managers of Covered California recently released figures for the week ending Feb. 8, for example. On Wednesday, however, they skipped the weekly activity report and published a new batch of activity statistics for January.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the agency that oversees the state-based Maryland Health Connection, continues to report weekly activity figures. There, the number of people signing up for “qualified health plans” — private exchange plans — has settled at around 2,000 per week, managers said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period for QHP coverage started Oct. 1 and is set to end March 31.

Maryland QHP selection volume is up from an average of about 1,500 for most open-enrollment season weeks but down from a high of about 6,500 recorded during the week ending Dec. 28.

Volume at most state-based and HHS-run exchanges soared in late December, in part because of warnings that consumers had to choose a plan quickly to have individual QHP coverage in place Jan. 1.

The message that consumers would have to sign up by Feb. 15 to have coverage in place by March 1 received far less attention.

Under current program rules, consumers have to enroll by March 31 to have QHP coverage in place by May 1 and avoid having to pay the penalty to be imposed on many individuals who fail to have what the government defines as a responsible amount of health coverage. In the first year, the penalty on uninsured or underinsured consumers will be 1 percent of income.

Members of the board of Minnesota’s state-based exchange, MNsure, have wondered whether the January activity figures will be the typical figures, or if activity will spike when the March 31 deadline and other PPACA deadlines near.

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