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Calif. officials: Obamacare enrollment surges in new year

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More than 625,000 people have enrolled in private health insurance through California’s Obamacare market as of mid-month, an uptick from the half-million enrollees reported through the end of last year, officials for Covered California said Tuesday.

Officials said 500,108 had enrolled on the state-run health exchange from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, but preliminary data suggests that an additional 125,000 had enrolled through Wednesday.

Additionally, 584,000 applications have been deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, officials said.

“We’re encouraged by the outpouring of interest and participation in the state insurance exchange,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee.

Federal health officials reported last week that nearly 2.2 million Americans had enrolled in private plans through Obamacare marketplaces through Dec. 28, meaning California contributed nearly a quarter of all enrollees.

California is by far the nation’s most populous state and, in 2010, was the first to lay the legislative groundwork for a state-run exchange under Obamacare.

The California exchange reported that 25 percent of its private-plan enrollees fall into the 18-34 age group, a key demographic for making Obamacare’s economics work. Younger people tend to be healthier, so they would keep premiums in check when older consumers with people with preexisting conditions enroll on state-based marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act.

Experts say nationwide enrollment among 18- to 34-year-olds should be closer to 40 percent to keep premiums from rising.

Covered California said the 18-34 group represents about 25 percent of the state’s population but about 36 percent of those who are eligible for government subsidies on the exchange to defray the costs of health premiums.

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