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May 01. 2014 8:26PM

40,262 Granite Staters enrolled in Obamacare marketplace

More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents signed up for health insurance at healthcare.gov, twice what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had hoped for, according to statistics released Thursday by the federal government, which partnered with New Hampshire to set up the Obamacare marketplace.

“The official enrollment target of 19,000 was far exceeded,” said Lisa Kaplan Howe, policy director at New Hampshire Voices for Health, an advocacy and policy group that worked to encourage sign-ups.

“These numbers clearly demonstrate the value provided by the marketplace. Shoppers appreciated the transparency, greater affordability and value it provides,” she said.

Obamacare opponents said the numbers could not be independently verified, particularly when filtered for people who already had insurance, those who have yet to pay a premium, and those who ended up with worse coverage or higher premiums.

In a teleconference with reporters, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius discussed the final figures for the open enrollment period that began in October and ended March 31, showing 40,262 Obamacare sign-ups in New Hampshire.

On the national level, more than 8 million people have selected a plan through the online exchanges operated by individual states or by the federal government in partnership with states, Sebelius said.

She said that number is in addition to more than three million young adults who picked up coverage on their parents’ plans and 4.8 million newly insured through expansion of Medicaid and related programs.

Sebelius attributed the enrollment figures to “an unprecedented outreach and enrollment effort focusing on our most vulnerable and uninsured populations, with the help of state and local partners.”

Despite concerns that young people would shy away from the program, HHS reports that 2.2 million (28 percent) of the people who selected a plan during the initial open enrollment period were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34.

Sebelius cited a last-minute surge in enrollment, with nearly 3.8 million signing up in March, including nearly 1.2 million young adults.

The report breaks down the numbers by gender, age, qualification for financial assistance and types of plans selected for each state.

NH numbers

In New Hampshire as in most states, more women signed up than did men. Individuals up to age 34 accounted for 27 percent of the sign-ups in New Hampshire, while those from 45 to 64 years old accounted for 53 percent.

Of all those signing up for Obamacare in New Hampshire, 77 percent qualified for some form of subsidy or premium assistance, while 23 percent were self-paid.

Traffic to the site was extremely heavy once it became operational. HHS said that 5.5 million people submitted applications, but did not go on to pick a plan.

“The Affordable Care Act has turned a corner in New Hampshire,” said U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter after the numbers were released. “The rollout was rocky, and I made my frustration well known, but it’s great news that 40,262 Granite Staters and over 8 million people nationwide have signed up for private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces.”

Shea-Porter said the marketplace enrollment, combined with the recent passage of a bipartisan plan to expand Medicaid to 50,000 Granite Staters, and news that two additional insurers plan to offer coverage on New Hampshire’s marketplace next year, “demonstrate the progress our state has made so far.”

Jennifer Horn, state GOP chairwoman, said Obamacare remains enormously unpopular in New Hampshire. The last University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll showed that 53 percent say they are opposed to the health care law, with 34 percent in favor.

“As a result of Obamacare, Granite Staters are being forced to give up their doctors and face a severely limited hospital network that will force them to drive long distances for care,” she said. “Small businesses are facing increasing health care premiums that are hurting their ability to grow and create more good-paying jobs.”

The extent to which signups met expectations varied from state to state. Massachusetts fell more than 70 percent short of its goals. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Florida all signed up twice as many residents as federal officials had hoped.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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