Maine Obamacare signups slow but steady, with 20,000 selecting plans

Healthcare.gov, the federal government’'s troubled website for the health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.
Healthcare.gov, the federal government’'s troubled website for the health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.
By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 12, 2014, at 4:23 p.m.

More than 20,000 Mainers have signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new round of federal data released Wednesday.

Since the launch of healthcare.gov on Oct. 1, 2013, through Feb. 1, 20,511 Maine residents selected a private health plan through the federal government’s gateway for the marketplaces in Maine and 35 other states, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s up from 13,704 Mainers at the end of December, though a drop off from December’s more rapid pace.

The White House anticipated a rush of enrollments in December by Americans seeking to get coverage by the new year.

In Maine, about 65,000-104,000 people are estimated to be eligible to shop on the marketplaces.

Also called “exchanges,” the marketplaces are geared toward small businesses and individuals who buy their own health insurance rather than receive coverage through work or government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Enrollment through healthcare.gov and state-run health insurance exchanges also jumped nationally, rising 53 percent from the prior three months to 3.3 million people. January accounted for nearly 1.1 million health coverage signups, marking the first month enrollment has beat government projections. Young adults outpaced older enrollees, accounting for about a quarter of the signups, according to HHS.

The enrollment numbers reflect consumers who have chosen a plan but may not have paid their first premium, which is how insurers typically define enrollment.

The new batch of data showed little change in the age mix of Maine enrollees, with most middle-age or older. Health policy experts are closely watching that breakdown, as the Affordable Care Act’s overhaul of the insurance market for those who buy their own coverage relies on healthy Americans, who tend to be younger, signing up to help share the risk with older, sicker consumers and keep costs from skyrocketing.

In Maine, the oldest state in the country, 61 percent of enrollees so far are between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the HHS report. Nineteen percent are ages 18-34, ticking up from 18 percent in December but still among the lowest showings in the country for young adult signups.

Many experts predict that younger, healthier adults will put off buying coverage closer to when open enrollment winds down on March 31. Older, sicker consumers are more likely to already have coverage that they want to continue, or to jump at the chance to buy it, while younger adults tend to lack coverage and may wait to purchase a health plan.

Nearly 90 percent of Mainers who have chosen a plan qualified for federal financial help to afford their coverage. Three out of four Mainers chose a “silver level” plan, which is linked to a discount that lowers the amount policyholders pay out of pocket. Policies range from platinum to gold, silver and bronze, with the higher metal tiers carrying heftier monthly premiums but lower co-pays and deductibles.

Tax credits also are available to lower consumers’ monthly premiums.

The federal site also allows users to determine whether they’re eligible for their state’s Medicaid program. In Maine, 4,803 people were determined eligible for Medicaid, or MaineCare, though state officials have said Maine DHHS hasn’t received complete information about potential enrollees.

http://bangordailynews.com/2014/02/12/health/maine-obamacare-signups-slower-but-steady-with-20000-selecting-plans/ printed on August 2, 2014