- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - More than 15,000 Iowa residents have signed up for private health insurance plans using the federal enrollment website healthcare.gov, according to a new report out Tuesday.

The figures show that while more people are signing up, the pace has slowed both nationally and in Iowa.

In January just over 4,000 more people had signed up for the insurance while February’s numbers released Tuesday show slightly more than 3,500 additional signups.

Nationally the pace slowed as well, with 943,000 signups in February, fewer than the 1.1 million in January and under the target of 1.27 million that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had initially set for the month.

Agency officials played down the slower pace saying it was in part because February has fewer days. They also declined to say whether they believed they would still reach the goal of 6 million people signing up.

“We do believe millions more Americans will enroll in coverage before March 31 deadline because we have seen that in other programs that have implemented these kinds of things,” said Julie Bataille, an HHS spokeswoman, in a conference call with reporters.

Nationally, about 4.2 million people have enrolled in plans using the federal website.

The numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services cover the first five months of enrollment under the health care law. The report shows that 15,346 people in Iowa enrolled in private health insurance between Oct. 1 and March 1.

The government had said 11,788 had signed up during the first four months the healthcare.gov website was available. The site was plagued with technical difficulties at first, preventing many from signing up in the early months.

Overall, 40,113 Iowa residents have applied for and been deemed eligible to enroll in a marketplace plan and about 24,467 of them, qualified for financial assistance. Of the 15,345 who have selected a plan and signed up, 84 percent qualified for tax credits to cover part of the premium costs. An additional 28,981 were eligible for low-income health programs such as Medicaid.

More older Iowa residents have signed up so far. Thirty-five percent of the enrollees are between the ages of 55 and 64, compared with 24 percent who were between 18 and 34. And more women signed up than men. Fifty-six percent of the enrollees were female.

Iowa is among 36 states using HealthCare.gov as their insurance marketplace.

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