101,778 sign up for health insurance in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New enrollment figures for the Affordable Care Act show 101,778 people in Louisiana selected a plan through a federally run insurance marketplace, out of more than 184,000 who were eligible.
The figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show about 32 percent of those who signed up fall into the 18-34 age bracket. That age group is considered necessary to help make the plan work because the group is relatively healthy
The overall figure for the state is a considerable jump from the 45,561 people enrolled in the federal marketplace plan as of March 1. And it was above earlier Obama administration projections of 94,000. A surge in enrollment had been reported as this year’s March 31 deadline for signups approached.
Other details of Louisiana enrollment released by the department:
— 59 percent of those who signed up are women; 41 percent, men.
— Most Louisianans, 65 percent, chose the “silver plan” from among those offered in the four-tiered selection that included bronze at the lowest level, followed by silver, gold and platinum.
— 88 percent — 89,341 people — selected a plan that included financial assistance.
— Louisiana is among the states, all in the South, with the highest concentration of African-Americans selecting Marketplace plans: Mississippi at 59.5 percent, Georgia at 38.6 percent, Louisiana at 37.9 percent, and Alabama at 29.9 percent.
The new report didn’t include information on how many consumers have actually paid their first premiums. With grace periods for enrolling extending into mid-April, many who’ve signed up weren’t obligated to pay until this week. A report released Wednesday by House Republicans said only 67 percent of people who had signed up through federal marketplaces nationwide had paid their first month’s premiums as of April 15.
The report from the House panel put the number at 59 percent in Louisiana, where dissatisfaction with the health care law Republicans often call “Obamacare” is a key attack point in efforts to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Democrats disputed the report, which had figures far lower than payment rates reported by some individual insurers in the range of 85 percent and above.
Republicans kept up the criticism.
“Eighty-five percent of enrollees nationwide are receiving subsidies, which begs the question if the program is sustainable,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy, one of Landrieu’s Republican opponents.
“Going forward, we don’t know how many are continuing to pay in their second month of coverage. We also don’t know how many of those enrollees had health insurance last year but were kicked off by Obamacare,” said Rep. John Fleming, a northwestern Louisiana Republican.
The jump in enrollment was accompanied by a fall in the number of Louisiana residents enrolled in Medicaid, the federally funded program for the poor, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The reduction between Oct. 1 and March 31 was 7,904 or about .08 percent of the total enrollment for those programs. Some 1.019 million are enrolled in the two programs.
The Affordable Care Act included provisions for expanding Medicaid but a Supreme Court ruling left the decision up to the states. Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to expand Medicaid under the law, and state lawmakers have rejected efforts to expand the program. Advocates say expanding the program under the act could mean coverage for 240,000 people.

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