About 8,000 more Kansans obtained health coverage in January through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.
In Kansas, 22,388 people selected a plan on the marketplace at HealthCare.gov between Oct. 1 and Feb. 1, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. More than three-fourths received some type of financial assistance.
“Every American deserves the opportunity to gain quality, affordable health coverage that’s there when they need it,” Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday in which she announced the figures.
According to population size, that would mean about 876 Douglas County residents have selected coverage on the marketplace through Feb. 1. While that’s a far cry from the 13,792 uninsured residents of Douglas County, many of them would have likely qualified under the law’s expanded Medicaid eligibility if Kansas had elected to participate.
Of the Kansas enrollees, the majority (56 percent) chose the marketplace’s silver plan, followed by gold (22 percent), bronze (17 percent) and platinum (3 percent). The platinum plan covers approximately 90 percent of a patient’s medical costs while the bronze covers 60 percent.
About 28 percent of the Kansas residents who have signed up are between the ages of 18 and 34, a demographic the Obama administration has called critical to the law succeeding. Nearly a third of the enrollees, however, are 55 to 64.
The January numbers are down from the roughly 12,000 Kansans who selected a plan in December, prior to the deadline to have insurance by the first of the year.
“It’s definitely a little bit slower than December, when we had quite bit of people enroll, which was probably because of that first deadline,” said Amanda Kong, an insurance marketplace navigator based at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department. “I definitely think in March it’s going to pick up, maybe even more than it did in December.”
March 31 marks the deadline by which most Americans are required to have health insurance or they will be fined. That’s also the final day of open enrollment on the insurance marketplace before next fall. During closed enrollment, Americans won’t be eligible for the law's subsidies and will only be able to buy coverage directly from insurers (who will be able to deny them for things like pre-existing conditions) unless they have a qualifying event such as getting married, having a child, moving to an area with different coverage options, losing their insurance, or a change in income that affects their subsidy eligibility.
Heartland Community Health Center, which also has staff members trained to assist with enrollment, saw similar trends as the health department. After Heartland’s enrollment activity spiked in December with 52 individuals or families signing up, only 18 have enrolled through the Lawrence clinic since then, according to spokesman Sean Hatch.