Federal officials reported Monday that 2.2 million people nationwide have selected a plan in the new health insurance marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 500,000 of them are Californians.
The numbers were released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also reported demographics across age groups, gender and tier of plan chosen.
While California makes up about 12 percent of the nation's population, the state's enrollment is 22 percent of the national total.
"We're pleased that California is leading the nation," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a consumer advocacy group. "It's an indication that California's efforts to aggressively take advantage of the Affordable Care Act is paying big dividends."
Specifically, 498,794 Californians have selected a plan, and 25 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 34. That's well below the Obama administration target of 40 percent. Younger adults are highly desirable to insurance companies as younger people are presumed to be (in general) more healthy, and their presence in the insurance pool helps spread risk.
The 25 percent enrollment is in line with young adults' representation in the population, but in the ACA landscape that's not the population that matters to insurers. Instead, the pool is not the general population but rather the pool of people buying insurance on their own plus the uninsured -- and minus those eligible for Medi-Cal, says Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
While the difference between a 40 percent target and the 25 percent actual enrollment sounds daunting, an analysis by Levitt and colleagues shows enrollment by young adults might be strong enough. "Young people are enrolling in sufficient numbers to keep the market stable," Levitt says. "Even if somewhat fewer young people enroll than would be ideal, premiums woud only have to go up modestly to make up the difference" in 2015.
Both Levitt and Wright pointed out that more than two months are left in the open enrollment period.
"We are at halftime in the effort to get folks enrolled," Wright said. "These numbers show we're on track."
Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman with Covered California, said the agency will release enrollment numbers later in January, "with in-depth analysis and demographic breakdowns." Gonzales said the numbers from HHS "are an indication of the strong ongoing demand for affordable coverage in the state."
Other data points from the HHS numbers:
- 53 percent of enrollees are women; 47 percent are men
- 52 percent of enrollees are 45-64
- 61 percent of enrollees chose a silver-tier plan; 23 percent chose bronze
- 85 percent of people who bought a plan on Covered California received a subsidy
Wright reminded consumers that this Wednesday, Jan. 15, is the deadline for people who signed up for insurance that took effect Jan. 1 to pay their premium.
In addition, Jan. 15 is the deadline to sign up for health insurance that starts Feb. 1.