By Rose Hoban
North Carolina added more than 52,000 people to the federal insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act by the end of January, according to a federal report released this week.
The new enrollments bring the state’s total to more than 160,000 people who’ve signed up for insurance under the new law. Federal officials estimate that more than 1.6 million North Carolinians are uninsured.
This week’s report also revealed that North Carolina continues to be among the states that have signed up the highest percentage of people projected to enroll: about 83.9 percent of 191,000 people who were projected to sign up by the end of March have already done so.
Of the 36 states participating in the federal insurance exchanges, only Maine and New Hampshire have higher percentages.
A larger percentage of females (58 percent) than males (42 percent) signed up for plans; but of all the enrollees, 90 percent qualified for financial assistance to pay for their plans.
“More Americans are enrolling every day, and finding quality, affordable coverage in the marketplace,” said Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius.
According to federal statistics, 25 percent of North Carolina’s enrollees are in the key age group of 18 to 34. For the exchanges to work and be economically viable for insurers, a higher percentage of young people needs to sign up for coverage to balance the risk from older, sicker enrollees, health economists say.
Federal officials looked for at least 33 percent of enrollees to be in that demographic; but for the law to perform optimally, closer to 40 percent of enrollees need to be young people. Nationally, 31 percent of enrollees are under 34.
One inducement to enroll created by the law is catastrophic coverage, available only to people under 30. But only 1,799 (1 percent) of total enrollees in North Carolina signed up for the coverage, which tends to be much cheaper. An additional 95,000 young people under the age of 26 have enrolled for insurance under their parents’ plans.