Nearly 75,000 Maine residents chose a health insurance plan during the second sign-up season under the Affordable Care Act, according to preliminary federal figures that capture a last-minute rush to enroll before Sunday’s deadline.
When the second year of open enrollment under the health reform law ended Feb. 15, 74,792 Mainers selected or automatically were re-enrolled in a plan through Healthcare.gov, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
That’s just over 60 percent of the 124,000 Maine residents eligible to buy a private plan on the federal health insurance marketplace, ranking Maine among the top-enrolling states in the nation.
People who buy their own health insurance, instead of acquiring coverage through work or the government, are eligible to shop at Healthcare.gov.
Nationwide, about 11.4 million Americans enrolled in coverage through the marketplace since Nov. 15, 2014, the start of open enrollment, according to HHS.
Maine also far outpaced last year’s enrollment total of more than 40,000 people.
The state’s tally for 2015 still could increase. Consumers who started the enrollment process when Sunday’s deadline passed but were confronted with long wait times and other technical problems have until Feb. 22 to complete their applications.
The preliminary enrollment total HHS released Wednesday also could fluctuate if consumers change or cancel plans, the agency said. The Obama administration also is considering a special enrollment period to allow an extra opportunity to enroll for people hit with tax penalties for going without health insurance in 2014.
The 2015 enrollment figures included individuals who chose a plan but may not have paid their first monthly premium. Wednesday’s report also included people who had coverage through Healthcare.gov in 2014 but can’t keep their plans this year because they failed to document their citizenship or immigration status, according to HHS. Those individuals will be removed from future enrollment reports after their coverage ends Feb. 28.
Feb. 15 was last day for most Americans to sign up for individual health plans that take effect this year. Only people with special circumstances — such as a marriage, adoption or job loss — can sign up after that date. The next open enrollment period isn’t until fall.
As of December, 77 percent of Maine enrollees could get coverage through Healthcare.gov for $100 a month or less after applying tax credits, according to HHS.
But the fate of the health law’s financial assistance remains uncertain. By this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether federal subsidies to help consumers afford insurance can be used only in states that established their own insurance marketplaces or, as is the case now, in states that use the federal marketplace.
More than half of all states, including Maine, use Healthcare.gov. The case hangs on imprecise wording in the health reform law.
Health policy experts say consumers won’t be forced to repay subsidies because the court’s decision won’t be retroactive. But the financial help wouldn’t be available in 2016, making health insurance unaffordable for millions of people.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has urged the supreme court to uphold the subsidies.