Thursday, February 13, 2014

Obamacare enrollment increases, but many in state still uninsured

By Jamey Dunn

Nearly 30,000 Illinoisans purchased private insurance through the Illinois' online marketplace last month.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released enrollment numbers showing that 88,602 Illinois residents have purchased insurance in the four months that the jointly-run state and federal website, getcoveredillinois.gov, has been online. As of December, 61,111 Illinois residents had purchased coverage. More than 168,000 people in the state have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the program — which is also a key component of federal health care overhaul, known as Obamacare. Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect, an estimated 1.7 million Illinois residents did not have health insurance.

While the pace of enrollments has improved in the last two months, according to the report from HHS, 115,000 in the state are eligible to buy insurance through the exchange but have yet to purchase coverage.   “These numbers show we are making good progress, but we still have much to accomplish in the next 47 days,” Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said in a prepared statement. “We are in the midst of a crucial push to enroll as many residents as possible for health coverage. We know that for many people, it requires multiple layers of exposure to information, including word-of-mouth and street-level contact with trusted community partners. We are working closely with hundreds of community partners across Illinois to ensure that everyone who needs health coverage obtains this quality, affordable insurance.”


Of those enrolled in insurance plans, 25 percent are between the ages of 18 to 34. This group, dubbed the young invincibles, are important to the program because their relatively low need for health care would offset the costs of insurer the older and those with preexisting conditions. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on health policy, estimates that about 40 percent of those eligible to purchase insurance on the exchange nationwide fall into the young invincibles category. Get Covered Illinois has begun marketing the exchange with ads on satirical news website The Onion in an effort to target younger residents.

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