Health

About 30 Percent of ObamaCare Enrollees Are Younger Than 34

Jon Elswick/AP

About 2.2 million people enrolled in new health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov and state-run insurance marketplaces between Oct. 1, when the exchanges launched, and the end of December, the Health and Human Services Department said on Monday.

The vast majority of those enrollments took place in December, following a round-the-clock repair process that brought the federal site HealthCare.gov from a nearly unusable state just after launch to generally good working order. About seven times as many people enrolled through HealthCare.gov in December as enrolled in October and November combined, according to an HHS report.

Only 137,000 people enrolled in HealthCare.gov, which serves 34 states that didn’t build their own online marketplaces, in October and November. That’s compared with about 1.1 million who enrolled in December.

Enrollment through HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces together jumped from about 365,000 in October and November combined to about 1.8 million in December, roughly a five-fold increase.

About 2.1 million people had enrolled through federal and state marketplaces as of Dec. 24, according to an earlier HHS release.

About 30 percent of total enrollees and 29 percent of HealthCare.gov enrollees are under 34 years old, a critical age group to ensure the Obamacare marketplaces’ long term viability. If too few young and healthy people purchase insurance through the marketplaces, that would raise the level of risk in insurance pools and may increase plan premiums to unaffordable levels.

The graph above includes enrollments in the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces. Click to enlarge.

The overall enrollment figures and the enrollment figures for younger people are in line with the government’s current expectations and with Massachusetts’ experience when it launched a similar exchange, Michael Hash, director of HHS’s Office of Health Reform said during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

Officials initially predicted more than 3 million enrollees by the end of 2013.

Officials expect the number of enrollees and the percentage of younger enrollees both to grow as an enrollment deadline approaches on March 31, Hash said.

Officials hope to enroll 7 million people in new plans by the deadline.

The government is in the middle of an outreach campaign to convince uninsured and underinsured Americans to enroll in the new marketplace plans. The campaign includes presentations at music festivals and farmer’s markets as well as at churches and community centers, said Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"The number of enrollments shows there is a very strong national demand for health care provided through the Affordable Care Act,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during the conference call, using the official name for the Obamacare legislation.

About 54 percent of Obamacare enrollees are women, according to HHS figures. About 79 percent received some level of financial assistance, the report states.

HealthCare.gov was beset with more than 400 software glitches and insufficient storage space when it first launched. Despite solving nearly all of its front-end issues, the site remains dogged by assertions from Republicans in Congress that citizen data submitted to the site may not be secure. The next in a series of hearings on the issue is scheduled for Thursday morning.

HHS officials say HealthCare.gov meets government standards to protect information security and that there have been no successful hacks against the site to date.

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// December 19
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