Pa., N.J., Del. below average on health care sign-ups

    The state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act have been signing up a lot more people in the last month following serious problems with the initial rollout.

    But according to Jennifer Tolbert, director of State Health Reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, states have enrolled on average just 7.8 percent of those eligible, which does not include those who qualify for Medicaid.

    “While that’s obviously less than 10 percent, and probably not where HHS would like to be at this point,” Tolbert said, “it represents a huge increase over what we saw in November.”

    Area states are even further behind. New Jersey is at just 5.5 percent eligible enrollment and Pennsylvania has reached 6.4 percent. Delaware has the highest rate with 6.8 percent.

    One possible reason the states have lower-than-average enrollments is that they have all relied on the healthcare.gov website, which was plagued with problems in the fall.

    “That probably served to suppress enrollment somewhat, compared to states that are running their own marketplaces,” said Tolbert. She noted that New York, which is running its own exchange, now has more than 12 percent of its eligible population enrolled.

    Another consideration is the amount of funding for getting the word out about the new programs, including subsidies that reduce the cost of policies.

    “Having fewer resources available, particularly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to conduct that outreach — and then provide the one-on-one assistance to help people navigate the website and actually apply for and enroll in coverage may be part of the explanation,” said Tolbert.

    Despite the obstacles, enrollments are now trending up. Tolbert said expects another surge in March, as last-minute shoppers sign up for policies before the open-enrollment period closes. After March 31 those without coverage will be subject to an IRS penalty.

     

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