About 155,000 Ohio sign-ups under health overhaul


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Roughly 155,000 Ohio residents
picked health plans in the new insurance marketplace created by
President Barack Obama’s health care law, falling short of a target set
by the administration before the exchanges opened.
The U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services released the final enrollment
numbers Thursday. The figures also showed that Ohio saw a surge of
enrollees in the final month of the first open enrollment period under
the law.
Sign-ups almost doubled, with 154,668 Ohioans selecting a
plan through the federal exchange. As of March 1, the federal
government had said 78,925 chose plans.
The final figure was shy of the 190,000 residents the government originally projected would be enrolled
by March 31.
new report did not include information on how many of the newly
enrolled have paid their insurance premiums. And it’s unclear how many
people previously had insurance.
Nationally, 8 million people
signed up for health care through the new insurance exchanges. Ohio was
among the states that relied on the federal HealthCare.gov website.
Ohio residents who obtained coverage are older, though about a third
are under age 35. More than half are women, and 85 percent are getting
financial help to pay their monthly premiums. Almost 286,000 residents
were found eligible to enroll in a marketplace plan.
The head of one organization helping Ohioans gain health coverage called the figures "pretty
these numbers show us is that the Affordable Care Act is working," said
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of
She said she was struck by the percentage of people who got subsidized private health insurance.
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who directs the state’s insurance department,
said the enrollment numbers tell a different story. She said the figures
show the law is "too complex, too expensive for people and too limited
in its options."
Thousands of other Ohioans have obtained coverage
through an expansion of Medicaid, the safety net health program for the
poor and disabled.
Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration
pushed forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under
Obama’s law. The main beneficiaries of the change are adults earning up
to about $16,100 per year, with no children living at home.
least 106,238 Ohioans have enrolled in the expanded program as of March
31, according to recent state caseload numbers. Those who qualify for
Medicaid program can still enroll.
Groups that helped Ohioans sign up for health insurance say they’re explaining to some how to use the
food bank association and its partners helped enroll 17,848 people in
either Medicaid or the health insurance marketplace. About 12 percent of
those helped have sought post-enrollment assistance.
The head of
one consumer advocacy group said the insurance market is seeing an
influx of users who will need some guidance about how insurance works.
everyone is going to run out and get a primary care doctor without some
encouragement," said Cathy Levine, executive director of the Universal
Health Care Action Network of Ohio.
Levine said one of the
challenges advocates have faced in signing people up for health care is
skepticism from those who could benefit the most from law.
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