NEW YORK, April 17 Thanks to a final April
surge, California's Obamacare marketplace enrolled a total of
1.4 million people in private health insurance plans, state
officials announced on Thursday, beating a federal forecast by
just over 800,000 enrollees.
The marketplace also signed up an additional 1.9 million in
the state's Medicaid program for the poor.
California's Obamacare enrollments are among 7.5 million
people nationally who have signed up, according to federal
Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, the
state's Obamacare health insurance marketplace, called that "a
huge number" and said enrollees "are part of history."
The country's first open enrollment period for coverage
under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law ended in
most states on March 31. California and a handful of others kept
their doors open longer, citing technical difficulties that kept
some customers from accessing Obamacare websites. The extension
paid off: on the final day, April 15, Covered California had
more than 50,000 sign-ups, a one-day record.
That may have come in part because Tuesday was also the
deadline for filing 2013 income tax returns. This year many tax
preparers, both in-person and electronic, reminded people that
the law requires them to have health insurance this year or pay
a tax penalty next year.
Two insurance companies dominated California's Obamacare
market. Anthem Blue Cross, part of Wellpoint, got 30
percent of the total by the end of March (the most recent data
on carriers), and non-profit Blue Shield took 27 percent. Health
Net got 19 percent and Kaiser Permanente, 17 percent,
with dozens of other carriers splitting the rest.
From April 1 to 15, 205,685 Californians enrolled in private
health insurance through the Covered California exchange.
. The state improved significantly on its early enrollment of
Latinos, a key demographic group for Democrats who hope to turn
Obamacare's successes into votes in November's mid-term
elections. Latino enrollment reached 305,106, 28 percent of the
total, 30 percent above where it stood at the end of March.
Young adults 18 to 34 years old, whose participation is
considered key to keeping a check on premiums, make up 29
percent of Covered California enrollment. They are 25 percent of
the state's population.
People 45 to 64, whose medical costs are expected to be
relatively high, make up 48 percent of California's enrollees.
Of those enrolled in Covered California plans, 88 percent
are eligible for financial subsidies to defray the cost of
Insurance companies report that 85 percent of enrollees have
paid their first month's premium, Lee said on Thursday. Although
critics of Obamacare have pointed to the 15 percent or more who
do not pay as evidence of the law's failures, Lee told the
Reuters healthcare summit this month that many non-payments are
because would-be customers gain health coverage through their
jobs and no longer need their Covered California plan.
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; editing by Andrew Hay)