Obamacare enrollment in La. at 17,500

By By The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — Enrollment in health insurance plans through the federal marketplace has swelled, with more than 17,500 people

in Louisiana signed up for coverage by the end of December.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released updated enrollment figures Monday, along with details of who is

getting the government-subsidized private insurance created under President Barack Obama’s health revamp.

In Louisiana, more women have signed up than men, and one-third of those getting insurance are in the older, costlier age

ranges of 55 to 64 years old.

Four out of every five Louisiana residents who registered for insurance through the marketplace have received federal financial

subsidies to help cover costs. More than half of the enrollees have chosen “silver” plans, which are considered mid-level

in price and coverage.

The marketplace offers health insurance

options for people who are uninsured or who currently pay for

individual policies,

rather than getting insurance through their jobs. Subsidies are

available to low- and middle-income families, as a provision

of the federal health law kicks in requiring most people to have

insurance or face fines.

Enrollment opened Oct. 1 and continues until March 31. More than 2 million Americans had enrolled through the end of December,

according to the HHS data.

In Louisiana, the number of enrollees

reached 17,548. That was a sizable surge from a month earlier, when

about 2,200 state

residents had signed up for health insurance. But it represents

only 5 percent of the 344,000 Louisiana residents estimated

to be eligible for federal subsidies to pay for insurance.

“We have seen the complaints about the

computer system dropping significantly, and the back-office material

that we’re receiving

from the government is improving as well. It’s not by any means

perfect at this point, but it’s much better,” said John Maginnis,

spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, which is

offering plans on the website.

Details of the state’s marketplace enrollees largely mirrored the national demographics.

Fifty-nine percent of the Louisiana’s enrollees are female, compared to about 54 percent nationwide, according to the data.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of the people who signed up for insurance coverage in Louisiana are in the coveted 18 to 34 age group,

compared to 24 percent nationally.

Thirty-two percent of the state’s enrollees are aged 55 to 64, similar to the 33 percent across the U.S.

If insurance coverage skews too much to

older people, that could push up insurance rates. States need younger,

healthier people

paying into the insurance system to help offset the costs of

covering older people, who tend to be sicker and use their insurance

coverage more.

Louisiana is one of 36 states using the

federal www.healthcare.gov website, rather than creating its own

state-run insurance

marketplace. Gov. Bobby Jindal is an opponent of the federal

health law and refused to build a state online insurance shopping

site.

Two companies are offering insurance plans on the marketplace in every parish across Louisiana: Blue Cross and Blue Shield

of Louisiana and the Louisiana Health Cooperative. Vantage Health Plan is offering coverage for most parishes.