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Not many have enrolled in new insurance

Fewer than 27,000 people completed the process to choose health insurance plans through the federal health marketplace in its first month, including 1,023 Virginians.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services released exchange enrollment numbers Wednesday afternoon, the first hard figures for the problem-plagued federal enrollment process.

Nationally, more than 106,000 people have chosen health plans through the health exchanges, but three-quarters of those were in state-run exchanges, which have not faced the technical problems that have troubled the federal exchange website.

The numbers cover the month between the exchanges’ launch, on Oct. 1, and Nov. 2.

Secretary Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking in a conference call, painted the numbers as positive.

“Even with the issues we’ve had, the marketplace is working, and people are enrolling,” Sebelius said. “We can reasonably expect these numbers will grow substantially People tend to research and consider their options, talk it over with their families, before making a purchase. This data represents only a month into a sustained, six-month enrollment and outreach effort.”

She also said the federal website is improving, and urged people to return to it.

“Don’t wait for the 30th of November. The website is very much operational,” she said. “Hundreds of thousands of people are getting through.”

The new HHS data says that nationally, more than 846,000 marketplace applications have been completed, including those for insurance in both the federal and state exchanges.

Those applications cover 1.5 million individuals. More than a million of those have been found eligible to buy a marketplace plan. And of those, 106,185 have selected a plan, according to the numbers released yesterday. Not all of those have paid for coverage yet. Payment, Sebelius said, is not due until Dec. 15.

The HHS release said those numbers don’t include 259,107 additional applications to the federal exchange that came in via phone and paper applications. Sixty-seven percent of the completed federal marketplace applications came in online, the release says.

In Virginia, 21,667 applications have been done through the federal marketplace. Virginia is one of 36 states where lawmakers chose not to build their own exchange, but instead to use the federal one.

Those applications cover 42,341 individual Virginians. Of those, 32,534 people have been determined to be eligible to buy a plan on the exchange.

Fewer than 10,000 Virginians—9,333—who have applied have been determined eligible for the federal subsidies meant to help pay health insurance premiums.

And 4,088 have been found to be potentially eligible for Medicaid or CHIP programs in Virginia.

All told, 1,023 individual Virginians have selected a health plan through the federal exchange.

The Virginia Healthcare Foundation estimated this year, using 2011 statistics, that nearly a million Virginians under age 65 have no health insurance.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com 

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