- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - More than 44,000 Maine residents signed up on the health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, nearly doubling health officials’ goal for the open-enrollment period, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday.

President Barack Obama’s administration said 44,258 Mainers enrolled on the federally-run exchange between Oct. 1 and April 19, easily surpassing the target of 23,000.

Like many states, Maine’s numbers surged in the final weeks of enrollment, with nearly 19,000 signing up since March 1. Community health centers and navigators across the state were flooded with calls and appointments as last-minute shoppers sought to get covered by the March 31 deadline.

Some consumers were given extra time if they weren’t able to buy a plan by close of the enrollment period.

Nationally, 8 million Americans picked plans on the new marketplaces, or exchanges.

While Maine beat its enrollment goal, about 24,000 more residents were eligible to enroll in marketplace plans, according to the report.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Lewiston-based co-op Maine Community Health Options are the only two companies offering coverage on the exchange. But Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has said it plans to join the marketplace next year.

Thirty-four percent of those who signed up for plans in the state are between the ages of 55 and 64. The rate of young people ages 18-34 improved slightly from 19 percent as of March 1 to 22 percent through April 19.

Most Mainers chose midrange “silver” plans, while only 8 percent chose “gold” plans, which generally have higher premiums but cost less for each doctor visit.