More than 107,000 NC residents have picked Affordable Care Act health insurance

01/13/2014 6:00 PM

01/13/2014 6:02 PM

More than 107,000 North Carolina residents have selected a health insurance policy under the Affordable Care Act – the vast majority signing up in December after the crash-prone federal enrollment website underwent intensive repairs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released updated enrollment data Monday, saying that nearly 2.2 million Americans have selected a Marketplace health plan since open enrollment for subsidized coverage began Oct. 1.

The health care law, commonly called Obamacare, was designed to reduce the growing ranks of the nation’s uninsured by creating subsidies for people within certain income limits and prohibiting insurers from turning away customers with cancer, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions.

Open enrollment under the law continues through March 31, and the bulk of health insurance purchases are expected to take place as the final deadline nears. In North Carolina, only about 10 percent of the 1 million-plus residents thought eligible for coverage have signed up during the first three months of enrollment.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s biggest insurer, has not disclosed how many have signed up with the company, but officials say they are still validating and processing applications that contain errors or have other problems associated with the troubled federal enrollment website. Blue Cross extended its payment deadline to Jan. 24, one of many insurers to move back the due date for January’s insurance bill.

The federal data also show that 23 percent of North Carolina’s enrollments have been by people ages 18 to 34, the age group essential to the program’s success. Younger people tend to have less health problems and are needed to subsidize older, sicker insurance customers in a balanced insurance pool. The national average is 24 percent for enrollment in that age category, known in insurance industry parlance as “young invincibles.”

In North Carolina, 89 percent of applicants have qualified for subsidies, among the highest subsidization rates in the nation. Only Oregon has a higher rate of subsidized insurance enrollments, at 100 percent.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to buy health insurance. However, most people are not directly affected because they are already insured through their employer or through a government program.

The health care law provides subsidies to people in certain income limits and makes it illegal for insurers to turn away customers with pre-existing conditions.

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