Published on January 14, 2014

Enrollment up sharply in public health exchanges: HHS

By Jerry Geisel, Crain News Service

WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2014) — More than 2.1 million people enrolled in health insurance plans offered through public exchanges through December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Jan. 13.

The count of 2,153,421 individuals who enrolled through Dec. 28 is close to six times more than the 364,682 individuals who had enrolled through the end of November. That leap dramatically illustrates the progress HHS has made in overcoming difficulties with its website, healthcare.gov, the primary way people are expected to select and enroll in plans in states where the federal government is operating exchanges.

Those difficulties, which included website crashes and long waits for potential enrollees, have eased in recent weeks.

“Americans are finding quality affordable coverage in the marketplace, and best of all, because coverage began on New Year’s Day, the promise and hope of the Affordable Care Act is now a reality,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

Still, exchange enrollment will have to grow significantly in the coming months to meet earlier projections. For example, the Congressional Budget Office last year projected that the exchanges would provide coverage to 7 million individuals in 2014.

State vs. federal exchanges

Of enrollees, more than 44 percent, or 956,991, opted for coverage in exchanges run by states. Nearly 56 percent, or 1,196,430, selected plans in the 36 states where the federal government operates the exchanges because those states declined to do so, or in states in which HHS operates the exchanges in partnership with them. By contrast, through the end of November, just 137,204 individuals had secured coverage through the federal exchange.

Among states that are running their own exchanges and have reported enrollment information, California had the most enrollees with 498,794, up from 107,087 through the end of November, followed by New York with 156,902, up from 45,513 in November.

In states where the federal government runs exchanges, Florida had the most enrollees with 158,030, up from just 17,908 through the end of November, followed by Texas with 118,532, up from 14,308 in November.

HHS also reported that about 78 percent of enrollees in state exchanges were eligible for a federal premium subsidy, while 80 percent of enrollees in the federal exchange will receive a federal premium subsidy.

Those premium subsidies, authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are available to those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which comes to $45,940 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four.

This report appeared in Crain’s Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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