Nearly 11.7 million consumers have now elected or were automatically re-enrolled into plans on federally operated or state-based insurance exchanges, while the percentage of under-35 enrollees was essentially unchanged from the prior year, said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and other agency officials Tuesday.
That figure includes 8.84 million using the HealthCare.gov platform and 2.85 million in 14 state-based exchanges. The total is expected to increase because a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 is scheduled to help consumers avoid tax penalties for not obtaining health insurance coverage this year. Some states are also offering additional time to enroll.
Demographic details on enrollees show more than 4.1 million under the age of 35 signed up for marketplace coverage, representing 35% of all plan selections compared to 34% at the end of 2014 open enrollment.
Despite the slight increase, HHS officials said the agency is happy with the achievement and believes insurance companies are also pleased with the age demographics of enrollees.
“Insurance companies vote with their feet and there was a 25% increase in insurers on the marketplace. We don't think we would be having that sort of behavior from insurers if they feel like there wasn't the right mix,” Kevin Griffis, HHS' acting assistant secretary for public affairs, said during a media call Tuesday.
Of the roughly 4.2 million people who were either re-enrolled or automatically renewed from last year, 2.2 million people were "active re-enrollees," meaning they went back into the system and compared their new options. And about half of those consumers—1.2 million—ended up switching plans.
The rate of plan-switching surpasses that for both Medicare Part D and employer-sponsored coverage, according to Griffis.
The agency appeared to lose ground in attracting minorities to the federal exchange. The percentage of Latino and Asian enrollees on federally operated exchanges remained flat compared to last year at 11% and 8%, respectively. The percentage of African-American enrollees dropped from 17% to 14%.
But more than 3 million people declined to self-identify their ethnicity, making it difficult to know how many signing up for coverage were minorities, according to Meena Seshamani, director of HHS' Office of Health Reform.
A comparable racial and ethnic breakdown for state-based exchanges was not released by the agency.
California released its own demographic data last week, although its report only focused on subsidy-eligible enrollees. Among that group, the percentage of African-American enrollees rose from 3% in 2014 to 4% in 2015. Latino sign-ups jumped 6 percentage points to 37% and the percentage of subsidy-eligible Asians getting coverage on the exchange dropped from 23% to 18%.
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