Philly region a national leader in Affordable Care Act sign-ups

    More than 100,000 people in Pennsylvania have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That’s according to the latest government report. And enrollments in the Delaware Valley appear to be especially high.

    Between the end of December and January, the number of Pennsylvanians who chose private health plans through the new online markeplace went from about 80,000 to about 120,000. A third were younger than 34, and most got financial assistance.

    “I think people are really eager to get insured,” said Laura Line, with Resources for Human Development, an agency that received federal funds to help sign people up for coverage around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

    Line attributes the uptick to a combination of targeted outreach efforts and the urgency of an approaching enrollment deadline, March 31. After that, fines will kick in for those without coverage.

    The latest government figures don’t clarify how many people actually paid their first month’s premium, a requirement to be insured, nor do they indicate how many people were previously uninsured.

    Philadelphia ahead of the pack

    Line, along with Antoinette Kraus with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, said their efforts were validated at a meeting with federal officials Monday. They learned that out of all the metro areas with federal marketplaces, Philadelphia was way ahead of the pack in terms of percentage signed up, second only to Miami.

    Some 50,000 residents in Southeastern Pennsylvania have picked a plan, they said.

    “We’ve seen a lot of groups step up, and those who haven’t been as focused on this are doubling their efforts,” said Kraus, pointing to recent efforts at Project HOME as an example.

    Kraus’ group, along with a handful of other area nonprofits, also recently launched a toll free help line [1-855-486-9331] to better connect people with certified application counselors.

    Major Medicaid glitches

    One problem that’s yet to be resolved in Pennsylvania: signing up for Medicaid through the federal website. Only about 20 applications out of some 50,000, filed through the federal website, have actually gone through, according to Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Public Welfare.

    DPW is working with federal officials to resolve the “account transfer issue,” Gillis said. In the meantime, the department is encouraging those in “that land of limbo” to contact her agency directly to enroll.

    Line, who has been relaying the same message to potential enrollees, said  her group is also on hand to help anyone with the sign-up process.

    Beyond Pennsylvania

    Beyond Pennsylvania, New Jersey had about 20,000 additional signups in January. The federal report found more than 100,000 were assessed or deemed eligible for Medicaid in that state, which has expanded eligibility.

    According to Nicole Brossoie with New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, the state has experienced some challenges in dealing with the Medicaid application transfers from the federal website, but about 30,000 files have been fully processed and completed thus far.

    In Delaware, meanwhile, a total of about 11,000 people have signed up for private insurance or Medicaid.

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