- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - The public is starting to learn more about the people signing up for health insurance through Washington’s new exchange.

Since the exchange opened in October, most of the newly insured signed up as individuals, according to information released by Washington Healthplanfinder on Thursday.

Nearly 80 percent of those buying private insurance earn less than $35,000 a year for an individual or $70,000 for a family of four. People are signing up for health insurance in every county, with most enrollments in the counties with the most people.

More women than men are buying insurance or enrolling in free health coverage through Medicaid. Shoppers are spread across the age bands, but more than half of enrollees are between 45 and 64.

The majority of shoppers chose a plan from Premera Blue Cross or its LifeWise Health Plan subsidiary. Premera and LifeWise are the only companies selling insurance in all 39 counties.

Premera spokesman Eric Earling said the company was happy with the results so far. Altogether, plans from Premera and LifeWise made up 63 percent of the purchases within the exchange.

“We’re pleased our individual health plans have proven so popular with customers purchasing through the Healthplanfinder. We’ve seen strong interest in our plans outside the exchange as well,” Earling said.

More than 67,000 people have signed up for private insurance through Washington’s new health care exchange. Another 72,000 will be enrolled after they complete payment on their insurance. The Washington exchange had a goal of getting 130,000 people into private insurance plans by Jan. 1.

December was a busy month for private-insurance sales through the exchange, which jumped from about 20,000 enrollments in November to more than 67,000 by the end of December.

Another 167,000 Washington residents have enrolled in free insurance through Medicaid. More than 115,000 of these people were newly eligible adults because the state expanded Medicaid this year.

Open enrollment continues for private plans until the end of March. Medicaid enrollment does not have a deadline.

Before health care reform took effect, an estimated 1 million Washington residents lacked health insurance.