- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - More than 40,000 New Hampshire residents have selected health plans through the new insurance market created by the federal health care overhaul, with a surge of nearly 19,000 sign-ups since March, President Barack Obama’s administration said Thursday.

New Hampshire’s first-year total, 40,262, was more than twice the target of 19,000 spelled out in a September memo to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. New Hampshire exceeded its target by a greater percentage than any other state in which the federal government operated the insurance market.

Karen Hicks, who oversaw efforts to promote the marketplace and educate consumers in New Hampshire, said the total reflects the last-minute rush seen nationally.

“It tells us we’re a deadline-driven society,” she said. “It’s a big, big deal. Forty-thousand people is a significant slice of the population.”

New Hampshire, population 1.3 million, has about 150,000 uninsured residents. About 50,000 are expected to be eligible for coverage under the state’s expanded Medicaid program. Hicks said her group’s target market was about 80,000 uninsured residents who would be eligible for financial assistance with their premiums through the new markets, so having half that number sign up exceeded her most optimistic expectations.

It’s unknown, however, how many of those people selecting plans were previously uninsured. About 22,000 people with individual policies were told last fall their plans would be canceled because they did not comply with the new law. Some have taken advantage of the opportunity to extend those plans, while others likely signed up for new plans through the marketplace.

Nationally, 8 million people signed up for private insurance under the historic health care law. As was the case elsewhere, more women have selected plans than men in New Hampshire. At 30 percent, adults ages 55 to 64 make up the largest age group, 26 percent are ages 18 to 34 and less than 10 percent are ages 18 to 25. Seventy-seven percent received financial assistance in New Hampshire, compared with 85 percent nationally.

New Hampshire opted not to set up its own marketplace and is partnering with the federal government to educate consumers and manage the health plans being offered. For now, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire is the only insurer offering health plans through the exchange, and it has faced criticism for excluding 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from its provider network. At least two other companies have said they plan to begin offering plans next year.

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