Delaware officials update health care enrollment

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Final enrollment numbers released by state officials Thursday show that 14,397 Delawareans signed up for health insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act in the first year of open enrollment.

Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf told the state Health Care Commission that 4,217 other Delawareans were found eligible for coverage under expanded Medicaid rules the state adopted as part of an effort to reduce the number of uninsured residents.

Less than two-thirds of Delawareans who chose a health insurance plan under the ACA have paid their first premiums, according to Landgraf.

State officials initially expected to enroll some 35,000 of the roughly 90,000 uninsured Delawareans for coverage under the ACA, but federal officials set a much lower benchmark of 8,000 last fall.

In addition to enrolling people in the exchange, Delaware officials had predicted that as many as 30,000 more residents would be eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion approved by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell.

The combined total of 18,614 expanded Medicaid recipients and exchange enrollees falls far short of the state’s initial goals, but insurance commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart said she believes the first year of ACA implementation in Delaware was a success.

“I didn’t think we would get that many people, actually,” she said. “I was skeptical.”

Officials still do not know how many enrollees in Delaware’s exchange were previously uninsured. The federal enrollment portal used by Delawareans contained no mechanism to ascertain that information.

“That was a significant missed opportunity … and hopefully one they will correct next go-around,” Landgraf said.

Landgraf noted, however, that 81 percent of Delaware enrollees will receive government subsidies to help pay their premiums.

Among those newly eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion, almost 43 percent are young adults ages 19 to 34.

But the “young invincibles” in that age range account for only 23 percent of enrollees in private insurance plans under the ACA, while roughly half are 45 to 64, an age range in which people are more likely to have pre-existing or chronic health problems.

A critical plan component for the federal law is having enough healthy young people enrolled in plans so that their premiums can help cover the costs of older people with more health problems.

Only about 8 percent of the completed enrollments in Delaware were reported by the four marketplace guide organizations hired by the state to help people learn about and enroll in the exchange. The state was awarded $6.5 million in federal funding over two years to pay marketplace guides.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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