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Who signed up for insurance benefits through the exchanges?

Now that the open enrollment deadline has passed, the official numbers are coming out about how many Americans – and whom – signed up for insurance benefits through the federal and state marketplaces. According to the White House, 7.1 million people enrolled in health plans during the open enrollment period, and many still have yet to finish their applications due to long lines. Even though those who have started the application process but were unable to complete it will have additional time, information on who signed up for health insurance and who might not be counted in those numbers have surfaced. 

Many age groups seek coverage

Previous reports speculated not enough young Americans would enroll for benefits as needed to offset the costs of older enrollees. However, this demographic had numerous options under the healthcare reform law, and some chose to stay on their health plans. 

The White House says approximately 3 million young adults were able to receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act simply by remaining on their parents’ health plans. However, The Washington Post asserts this figure is two years old and is based on estimates by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Post suggests this figure may be closer to approximately 2.2 million, which is still a strong increase.

According to CBS News, this key demographic accounted for approximately 25 percent of all enrollees in the marketplaces at the beginning of March. The HHS gave these additional numbers on the more then 4.2 million enrollees on March 11:

  • 31 percent were age 34 or younger
  • 55 percent were female
  • 45 percent were male
  • 83 percent selected a plan and could receive financial assistance

These numbers have yet to be updated with the more than 3 million new enrollees’ information, but give a picture of who signed up for coverage.

Some younger Americans might have thought the same as Ardy Carlson, a 33-year-old who told CBS News he waited until the last minute to sign up for health insurance because he decided he did need health coverage.

“I think I didn’t see it as super necessary at that time,” Carlson said. “But then as I started to think about it, I was like I need to do this, so now I have it. So it’s sort of a peace of mind thing for me.”

Some aren’t counted in estimates
There are enrollees who have not been included in enrollment numbers. According to The New York Times, these are Americans who started their applications online through the marketplaces but were uncertain whether the technical glitches would allow them to finish their applications. Many of these Americans chose to work directly with insurers to sign up for exchange-offered plans. 

“I needed the insurance so much that I just didn’t want to take a chance,” Helen Ferguson, a psychologist, told the newspaper. “I think people forget that the law is not a website – the law is so much bigger than that.” 

According to a blog in The Wall Street Journal, it is still uncertain how many people took this route to receive coverage. However, they will play an integral part in the ACA’s overall success.

Others may still need to finish applications
If the large number of last-minute sign ups are any indication, there is the possibility of even more people enrolling in insurance benefits through the mid-April extension. This number may remain unknown, as many unfinished applications on the marketplaces may be from those who ended up going through insurers directly or could represent a multimember household. More information on who has yet to sign up for benefits as well as who actually does have yet to be determined.

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Erin Woulfe
Erin Woulfe
Erin Woulfe likes to write about things that matter. Keeping her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the public sector world, she blogs about the latest legislative news and employee benefit trends that affect our school, city and county clients. She’s been with NIS since 2002. “I love connecting to our clients and providing them with the tools they need in order to administrate their plan,” says Erin. “Whether that be materials to educate their employees on certain benefits, how to effectively communicate change within an organization or just providing tips and how-to’s to help them make their job easier.”

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