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Pace picks up for number of Illinois residents enrolled in Obamacare

Updated: December 11, 2013 6:54PM



With just two more weeks during which consumers can buy health insurance that will kick in by January 2014, 7,043 people in Illinois had selected an insurance plan created by President Obama’s health care law by the end of November — five times more than by the end of October, the federal government said Wednesday.

Nationwide, 364,682 individuals signed up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. Of those, 70.8 percent — 258,497 people — signed up in the last four weeks of that period. Another 803,077 people were determined to eligible for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program by the end of November. Of those, 30,446 individuals were in Illinois.

However, those numbers are still quite a bit lower than the 7 million people that was expected to sign up — on both the state and federal exchanges — by the time the initial enrollment period ends at the end of March, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

But the federal government said it’s not worried.

“We think we’re on track,” said Michael Hash, the director of the Office of Health Reform with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was not on the call for reporters, issued a release, saying, “Evidence of the technical improvements to HealthCare.gov can be seen in the enrollment numbers. ... Now is the time to visit HealthCare.gov, to ensure you and your family have signed up in a private plan of your choice by Dec. 23 for coverage starting Jan. 1.”

The place where uninsured Illinoisans and most other states were supposed to go to find new — and ideally — cheaper insurance was the federally run HealthCare.gov.

The site, which launched on Oct. 1, has gotten 39.1 million visitors since the end of November, while 5.2 million have called state and federal help lines, HHS said. But the trouble-plagued website had kept many Americans from actually being able to explore those insurance plan options.

The federal government said it fixed most of the glitches by Dec. 1, and many navigators and consumers in Illinois have reported an easier time in getting on the site. There are still lingering issues, though, such as a bug on the site that insurers have warned could result in them receiving inaccurate and incomplete data.

HHS says it is aware of the problem and is making progress in fixing it.

States running their own marketplaces for new insurance still had more people who signed up for insurance than HealthCare.gov did — 227,478 versus 137,204. And the federal government still declined to provide a breakdown of what percentage of enrollees were younger versus older.

Consumers have until Dec. 23 to sign up on Healthcare.gov if they want to receive benefits starting Jan. 1. The end of the open enrollment period for 2014 remains March 31.

All Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine after March 31.

Also Wednesday, a new study came out showing that while 60 percent of Americans said they feel informed about the ACA — up from July’s 48 percent — only 35 percent of people who are uninsured say they are “very” or “somewhat” prepared for the ACA. The study was done by Transamerica Center for Health Studies, based on an online poll of 1,000 adults under the age of 64 conducted last month by Harris Interactive.



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