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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California’s health exchange is more than halfway toward meeting its original projection of 1.3 million sign-ups for individual insurance policies by the March 31 enrollment deadline, according to federal data released Wednesday.
The report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that slightly more than 728,000 people have selected a health insurance plan through Covered California, as the state marketplace is known. That includes those who already have begun paying their premiums and those who have not.
While California leads the nation in sign-ups, enrollment remains slightly behind the number projected last year by the Obama administration, which estimated 806,000 Californians would enroll in plans by the end of March. Just six weeks remain until the end of open enrollment.
A spokeswoman for Ogilvy, Lizelda Lopez, said Covered California will provide more detailed enrollment figures for the state exchange next week but was pleased with the numbers released by the administration.
“We feel very confident that we are well on our way with this information,” she said.
A quarter of those signing up between the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment and Feb. 1 are in the 18-34 age group coveted by insurance companies, while 52 percent are in the 45-64 age bracket, according to the HHS report. Those numbers track the age breakdown nationally.
Insurance industry experts have said that roughly 40 percent of policies need to be sold to people who are younger and healthier to make their coverage financially viable. Older people typically are more costly to cover because they use more in health care services.
The percentage of younger people signing up has been a concern for the Latino Caucus in the California Legislature, which has been pushing Covered California to improve efforts to reach Latinos, in large part because they tend to be younger than the general population.
State Sen. Norma Torres, who has spoken on behalf of the caucus during the exchange’s board meetings, introduced a bill earlier this week to expand its board of directors from five members to seven and require at least some member to have expertise in marketing, customer service and information technology.
“Enrolling Latinos is a key component of the exchange and maintaining financial viability and keeping rates affordable,” he said.
The federal report did not include an ethnic breakdown of enrollees, but that information is expected to be released next week by Covered California.
Enrollments nationwide have been slowed because of technical problems on both the federal website operating in 36 states and the state-run sites in the 14 others, but they have picked up in most states as those problems were addressed.
Nationwide, 3.3 million people signed up for individual or family polices on the exchanges through Feb. 1, according to Wednesday’s report. While that number appears robust, the Obama administration originally projected the exchanges would enroll 7 million by March 31.
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