News Column

106,000 Enrolled Under Obamacare

November 13, 2013

Peter Frost, Chicago Tribune

healthcare.gov
Problems persisted at the federal health-care website through October (file photo)

Nov. 13--In the first month of open enrollment in insurance coverage created under President Barack Obama's health care law, just more than 106,000 Americans, including 1,370 in Illinois, were able to select insurance plans through state-based marketplaces, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal government.

The figure represents the number of individuals who have paid their first month's premium payment as well as those who have yet to pay, leaving it unclear how many actually have enrolled. A top Illinois official working on the law's implementation said last week that the expected number of enrollees for October was in the "hundreds."

The numbers are far lower than the roughly 500,000 the Obama administration initially estimated would sign up during that period.

Of those who have chosen plans, only 26,794, or roughly a quarter, were able to do so via the enrollment at healthcare.gov, the website run by the federal government that's handling the application process for 36 states, including Illinois. The site, plagued by severe problems since its Oct. 1 launch, remains largely inoperable, leaving many Americans unable to shop for and purchase coverage. The remainder have signed up via separate portals run by 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Federal officials have warned in recent weeks that the widespread and persistent problems with helathcare.gov would lead to "very low" enrollment in the first month. They also have said they expect more people to sign up toward the end of open enrollment, which extends through March 31.

An additional 396,261 Americans who accessed the online exchanges were determined eligible for expanded coverage via Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, according to federal data. About 19,500 of them were from Illinois. The state has separately accepted applications from roughly 44,000 Illinoisans via its own website, abe.illinois.gov, officials said last week. Illinois was one of 25 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to expand the program to all adults who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,800 a year.

Overall, 975,407 people have made it through the entire process to determine their eligibility for federal tax credits for help purchasing a plan, but have not yet selected coverage. Of the 56,636 Illinoisans who have completed applications, 11,603 were eligible for some type of subsidy to purchase a private plan.

Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, nearly 27 million people have visited the exchange websites. More than 3 million have called state and federal help lines.

pfrost@tribune.com -- Twitter: @peterfrost

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Original headline: First U.S. figures show 106K enrolled in Obamacare


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