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88,000 in Illinois select health plan under Affordable Care Act

Kathleen Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius

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Updated: March 14, 2014 8:38AM



More than 88,000 Illinois residents have selected a health insurance plan created by President Barack Obama’s health plan, according to enrollment numbers that came out six weeks before the deadline to enroll this year.

Illinois’ previous total, released in January, was 61,111 people who had selected a plan created by the Affordable Care Act between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28. The new figures, released Wednesday, are to Feb. 1.

Of the 88,602 state residents who got a plan, 75 percent of those qualified for tax credits, according to the federal report.

Nationwide, nearly 3.3 million Americans selected a plan, continuing an increase from nearly 2.2 million.

The enrollment figures include people who may or may not have already paid a premium for the insurance plan they selected, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said. So, it’s hard to determine how many people have actually enrolled.

The report also showed a slight increase of young people buying health insurance. They are 27 percent of the people who have bought insurance — up from 24 percent. But that’s still below the roughly 40 percent goal set by the administration.

Getting people ages 18 to 34 to enroll is especially important to keep insurance premiums from rising. The Kaiser Family Foundation, however, has recently cited data showing that even if the age mix continued to skew older, premiums would go up next year.

Experts have said they expect young people to enroll in health insurance closer to March 31, when the six-month open enrollment period for 2014 ends.

HHS officials insisted Wednesday that there won’t be an extension of that date.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call that the news about the increasing number of people who had picked a plan as of February — and especially the pace at which young people were signing up — “very, very encouraging.”

For the first time, the report also broke down the type of plans different age groups got. Silver plans remain the most popular, including among people ages 18 to 34. In fact, 81 percent of young people chose a silver, gold or platinum plan, rather than a catastrophic one, which was supposed to attract people under 30. The metal titles on the types of health insurance plans offered as part of Obamacare reflect different prices of premiums and deductibles. Bronze plans would have lower premiums than a platinum plan, but higher out-of-pocket expenses, for example.

HHS said they weren’t surprised that young people chose the plans they did, noting that many of them qualified for tax credits. And tax credits can be used by other types of insurance plans except catastrophic ones. Another finding of the report was that more women applied for plans than men.

Not surprisingly, the new numbers drew different reactions.

“Based on past enrollment efforts, our research and what we’re hearing in the field, we’ve always said that young people would wait until later in the open enrollment period to make their decision, and we’re now seeing that pattern begin to play out,” said Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a group that has been helping get people signed up.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, meanwhile, pointed out that HHS’s original enrollment goal at this point was 4.38 million, based on an internal document obtained by the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Under penalty of higher taxes, Americans are mandated by law to have a plan, but they’re still resisting Obamacare,” said Brendan Buck, Boehner’s spokesman. “And many that are actually signing up are only doing so because the law cancelled the plan they had, liked and could afford.”

HHS officials said on Wednesday that they didn’t have data on how many people who bought a plan were uninsured.

Contrbuting: Lynn Sweet

mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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