Insurance enrollments edge up

By MELINDA DESLATTE Associated Press

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Nearly 2,200 Louisiana residents signed up for health insurance through November with the federally-run online marketplace, a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
Problems continued to plague the website last month, but federal officials say they expect the pace of enrollments to pick up around the country because many of the computer glitches were repaired within recent weeks.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released enrollment figures through Nov. 30, showing about 137,000 people had completed the full process to get coverage across the 36 states using the federal website.
In Louisiana, 2,193 people had made it through the site and selected an insurance plan through the marketplace created under President Barack Obama’s health revamp.
That’s more than five times as many people who were signed up in October, but it’s still less than expected. Enrollment opened on Oct. 1 and continues until March 31.
“We have seen our enrollment up. It’s still slow-moving, but we’re seeing where obviously there’s been improvements made to the website. Yet, we still have a lot of people we are hearing from who still are having difficulty,” said Billy Justice, director of marketing and sales for Vantage Health Plan, which is offering insurance plans in Louisiana through the federal marketplace.
Applications seeking coverage for 32,300 people in Louisiana have been filed, according to the federal data. About 23,200 of those have been deemed eligible for insurance through the marketplace, but they haven’t yet decided whether they’ll buy a coverage plan.
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.
In Louisiana, two companies are offering insurance plans on the marketplace in every parish: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Louisiana Health Cooperative. Vantage Health Plan is offering coverage for most parishes.
Justice said Vantage has received about 600 insurance enrollments through the website, but he said he expects that to grow as more people are able to navigate the marketplace.
“There has to be thousands more who want Vantage. They just don’t have it yet,” he said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, an opponent of the health law, refused to let the state create its own online marketplace, so Louisiana residents have to sign up through the federal government website at .
Federal subsidies are available to many low- and middle-income families to help cover costs, with 344,000 Louisiana residents estimated to be eligible for the assistance. At the same time, most people need to have insurance by early next year or face fines.

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