With only three weeks to go, North Carolinians continue to enroll for insurance available through the Affordable Care Act at a brisk pace.
By Rose Hoban
Enrollment in the online health care exchanges continues to be strong in North Carolina, as federal numbers reveal more than 200,000 people in the state have signed up for coverage provided as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Original projections were that about 191,000 people in North Carolina would sign up, but the February numbers showed that an additional 40,000 North Carolinians signed up, putting the state past its enrollment goal.
North Carolina is one of only seven states that have surpassed its enrollment goal. More than 4.2 million people across the country have now signed up for insurance through the health insurance exchanges.
The pace of enrollment in the state slowed somewhat from January, when an average of 1,690 people in North Carolina signed up every day. In February, that average dropped to 1,442.
In addition to people who signed up for coverage on the marketplace website, about 95,000 people under 26 years old have been enrolled in coverage under their parents’ plans.
About 1.55 million North Carolinians under the age of 65 lack health insurance. Of that number, between 360,000 and 500,000 would have been eligible for Medicaid had state lawmakers decided to expand the program, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.
“It is great to see that more North Carolinians now have the insurance they need and the peace of mind of knowing they’re not one broken bone away from bankruptcy,” wrote Sorien Schmidt, in a press release. Schmidt is North Carolina director of Enroll America, a not-for-profit organization that’s been working throughout the state to enroll people in insurance available in the marketplace.
Coming down to the wire
On a Tuesday conference call with reporters, federal officials said they had no plans to extend the deadline for enrollment past March 31.
“The statute directs the secretary to establish the dates for open enrollment in the first year by no later than June 2012,” said Mike Hash, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ director of health reform. “The secretary did publish regulations … and once that 2014 enrollment period has been set, they are set permanently for 2014.
“We do not believe we have the authority to extend things beyond March 31.”
But federal officials said they expect a surge of enrollment through to the end of March.
N.C Enrollment by the Numbers
- 58 percent – female
- 42 percent – male
- 25 percent – under the age of 34
- 74 percent – chose a “silver” plan
- 91 percent – received financial help to purchase insurance
- 191,000 – federal projection of signups in N.C.
- 200,546 – current enrollment in N.C,
- 95,000 – number of people under 26 eligible for insurance under their parents’ plan
“We do believe millions of Americans more will come in and enroll before the March 31 deadline,” said Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “We certainly have seen that in other programs that have implemented these kinds of things.”
Bataille pointed to another federal program in which more than 20 percent of enrollments came into during the last two days.
“I think there are other markers that I would point to that demonstrate that many consumers choose to make this kind of decision very close to their deadline for doing so,” she said.
‘Aggressive’ outreach continues
Federal officials declined to comment on how many of the enrollees nationwide had begun paying for the insurance purchased on the online marketplace, telling reporters only that the full numbers would be available after the end of March.
Bataille did say that “millions” more people had created accounts on the health insurance website than had purchased plans. She said it was taking consumers an average of six visits to complete their applications, spending between 20 and 30 minutes during each visit.
Federal statistics show that nationwide about 27 percent of enrollees fall in the 18-to-34-year-old age group. In North Carolina, that number is 25 percent. Originally, federal planners hoped that almost 40 percent of enrollees would be in the younger age group, but have acknowledged that the final tally will be lower.
“Our goal is make sure we enroll as many people as possible; that includes as many young adults as possible ” Bataille said.
She pointed out that many of their enrollment efforts are aimed at young people, including an appearance by President Barack Obama, who played straight man opposite comedian Zach Galifianakis in an online video. Bataille said about 19,000 people had visited healthcare.gov directly after viewing the video.
“All those who have been waiting for the last days before the deadline to enroll should wait no more,” Schmidt wrote in her release. “Those who need help going through the process can call 1-855-733-3711 and schedule appointments to sit down with free in-person assisters in their county.”
Correction: When originally published this story stated that North Carolina’s enrollment was 40,000 people over the initial projection of 191,000.