February 14

Maine nears health care sign-up goal at fast pace

The state was 44 percent ahead of its target as of Jan. 31, better than most states, and data starts to flesh out the categories of people getting insurance.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — New statistics show that Maine is approaching its goal for health insurance sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act faster than almost every other state.

MAINE surpasses target

These are the top 5 states that surpassed enrollment targets through Jan. 31 for private insurance plans purchased on the federal health exchange. Maine is the first in the nation among the 35 states that use the federal exchange. As a whole, the U.S. enrolled 3.3 million people, 75 percent of its 4.4 million target.

PERCENT

STATE TARGET ACTUAL OVER TARGET

Maine 14,260 20,511 44%

New Hampshire 11,780 16,863 43%

North Carolina 118,420 160,161 35%

Idaho 24,800 32,899 33%

Wisconsin 48,980 56,436 15%

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Through Jan. 31, Maine surpassed the federal target for enrollments by a greater percentage than any other state that is using the federal health insurance marketplace, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And the numbers show that Maine is approaching its goal for the six-month open enrollment period, which ends March 31, faster than any other state that’s using the federal system. A handful of states that have their own marketplaces are outpacing Maine.

The new figures also shed light on who is signing up for the insurance in Maine.

Fifty-six percent are women – about the national percentage. Just 19 percent are in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, which is key to helping keep prices down. And nearly 90 percent of Mainers who have signed up qualified for federal help paying their premiums.

“The numbers look good to us. It really says the headaches of October are passed,” said Mitchell Stein, policy director for Maine-based Consumers for Affordable Health Care, which supports the new law.

By the end of January, 20,511 Mainers had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The federal DHHS had projected in September that 14,260 Mainers would enroll by Jan. 31. That means Maine exceeded its target by 44 percent.

That was more than any of the 35 other states that are relying on the federal government’s marketplace.

Only Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York exceeded their Jan. 31 targets by a wider margin, and all three operate their own marketplaces.

Already, Maine is 89.2 percent of the way toward its target of 23,000 people enrolled by March 31.

Nationally, just 46.9 percent of the enrollment goal has been reached.

As of Jan. 31, about 3.3 million Americans had signed up for coverage through state-run or federal marketplaces – about 1 million short of the goal for that date and well shy of the 7 million the Obama administration hopes will be signed up by March 31.

Eighty-nine percent of the Mainers who have signed up for insurance are eligible for federal subsidies to help pay their premiums based on their income. Nationwide, 82 percent of those who have signed up for coverage are eligible for subsidies.

Stein, with Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said Maine’s higher subsidy rate might help explain why the pace of enrollment is faster here than in other states.

But Stein said his organization believed from the start that the 23,000 target for Maine was too conservative, given the demand for affordable health insurance in the state. Consumers for Affordable Health Care has estimated that 50,000 to 75,000 Maine residents will likely sign up for insurance on the marketplace within the first year.

Stein said the pace of sign-ups in Maine suggests that the online marketplace, HealthCare.gov, has largely recovered from the technical problems that plagued it last fall, particularly in October, when it was launched.

Maine Community Health Options, one of two insurers that are providing coverage in Maine, is well ahead of its conservative target for enrollments.

“We set a goal of 15,500 by the end of 2014 and have already surpassed that,” said CEO Kevin Lewis. “Things are going very well.”

(Continued on page 2)

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