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Health enrollment numbers up for 2015

Stacy M. Brown | 1/15/2015, 7:17 a.m.
The first detailed analysis of enrollment into the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has yielded good news, particularly ...
More than four million people in both the state and federal Marketplaces signed up for the first time or reenrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

The first detailed analysis of enrollment into the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has yielded good news, particularly for those who may require financial assistance.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say 87 percent of those who selected 2015 plans through HealthCare.gov in the first month of open enrollment have received financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums.

“We’re pleased that nationwide, millions of people signed up for Marketplace coverage starting January 1. The vast majority were able to lower their costs even further by getting tax credits, making a difference in the bottom lines of so many families,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.

The 87 percent of individuals determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums counts as an improvement over the 80 percent of enrollees who selected plans during a similar period last year.

Additionally, more than four million people in both the state and federal Marketplaces signed up for the first time or reenrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment.

Burwell says the numbers include more than 3.4 million people who selected a plan in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015, and more than 600,000 consumers who selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own Marketplace platform for 2015.

The report also revealed that the number of young adults signing up for coverage under the law remains low. Insurers rely on young people, who are generally healthier to keep overall premiums low by offsetting the cost of older, sicker enrollees.

Last year, 23 percent of those who enrolled during the same time frame were adults age 18 to 34. This year during the first month, the number stands at 24 percent or “way below” where it needs to be, Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, LLC, told the Wall Street Journal.

“We need to get the young invincibles showing up to this,” Laszewski said.

Almost 60 percent of those who enrolled in new health care coverage between November 15 and December 15, 2014 were women, which women’s groups greeted as promising news.

“For women, the Affordable Care Act means…greater peace of mind,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In total, from November 15 to December 26, nearly 6.5 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled in health plans under Obamacare.

When the new law rolled out in 2013, many cited its affect on college students, self-employed workers, small businesses, veterans and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

“The insurance that I have now seems to work fine for me, it has a very small co-pay amount, but the premium is high, especially for me because I work as a waiter,” Howard University junior Malik Paige, age 20, said after he enrolled. “So, I’m definitely going to be checking the marketplace under this new law to see if there is something more affordable that suits what I need.

Also, under the health care law, individuals under the age of 26 can remain insured as a dependent under the parent’s or guardians existing health insurance even if they are married and employed.

Young adults employed at businesses that don’t offer health insurance or plans that are affordable, became eligible through the Affordable Insurance Exchange, a type of marketplace where health benefit plans can be purchased under the new law.

“Interest in the Marketplace has been strong during the first month of open enrollment. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15 [2015], but this is an encouraging start,” Burwell said.