News

13M signed up for health plans during Obamacare enrollment

13M signed up for health plans during Obamacare enrollment

HEALTHCARE: More than 13 million people enrolled in some type of health coverage. Photo: Associated Press

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Thursday predicted stable health insurance costs for consumers who have purchased Obamacare plans, defying critics who warn that President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law will lead to skyrocketing premiums.

Just over 8 million Americans signed up for private coverage in state and federal insurance marketplaces during the law’s first enrollment period through April 19, according to a new administration report released on Thursday. Outside the marketplaces, the report said, an additional 5 million people bought plans that comply with Obamacare’s consumer protection and benefit standards.

Both sets of health plans sold within any given state belong to the same risk pool — the mix of policyholders ranging from young, healthy people to the old and sick. Larger numbers of older, sicker customers tend to produce upward pressure on costs, forcing future premiums higher for consumers.

“We believe, based on the data that we’ve seen and independent data that’s out there, that premiums will be stable and that the risk pool is sufficiently large and varied to support that kind of pricing in every state,” said Mike Hash, a top healthcare reform official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The administration runs a federal marketplace for consumers in 36 states. Fourteen states run their own.

The outlook for Obamacare premiums is a major issue in this year’s congressional elections. Republicans and some health insurers have warned of double-digit increases next year in states with low enrollment. Other experts have said most people will see relatively moderate premium hikes in the single digits.

Thursday’s report said 12.8 million people obtained coverage through the marketplaces or government health programs for the poor during Obamacare’s open enrollment, including over 4.8 million who gained coverage through the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The total is roughly equal to the latest topline 2014 forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which predicted 6 million enrollees in private insurance and another 7 million through Medicaid and CHIP, for a combined 13 million people.

Eighty-five percent of Obamacare marketplace applicants sought federal subsidies to help pay for coverage, the report said. About two-thirds selected mid-quality “silver” plans, while another 20 percent chose lower-level “bronze” policies.

Among federal marketplace applicants who reported their race, 63 percent were white versus 16.7 percent who were black, 10.7 percent Latino and 7.9 percent Asian. But one-third of applicants did not identify their racial background.

Republicans charge that the administration’s private enrollment totals are inflated because the administration has not said how many people have paid their first month’s premium, which determines official enrollment. Administration officials, insurers and independent researchers have estimated that 80-90 percent have paid.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a study of insurance data showing premium payments running at only 67 percent, suggesting an actual enrollment total of less than 6 million. The White House and Democrats dismissed the study as misleading.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Sandra Maler and Chizu Nomiyama)

Recent Headlines

44 mins ago in Sports

NBA & NHL Playoffs Scoreboard

Fresh
spurs803397501161

Who was victorious Monday night?

1 hour ago in Local Sports

WWU Golf: Viking women 2nd After First Day of NCAA Regional

Fresh
ncaa dii womens golf championship

Freshman Hannah Drake (T6th) and junior Brooke Branigan (T11th) are leading the way for WWU

3 hours ago in Local Sports

Council votes not to sell street for potential Seattle arena

Updated
seattlearena

Chris Hansen's arena investment group released a statement calling Monday's vote disappointing, but that they "don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle."

4 hours ago in Local Sports

Former Skyline star signs with the Seahawks

Updated
Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps (9) passes to a teammate during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.

Jake Heaps is a Seattle Seahawk. On Monday, the former Skyline High School star quarterback signed a free agent contract with his hometown team.

4 hours ago in Sports

Leicester wins English title for 1st time in 132-yr history

Updated
Photo Credit: Premier League via Twitter (@premierleague)

Leicester started this season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title