BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Enrollment in health insurance plans through the federal marketplace has swelled, with more than 17,500 people in Louisiana signed up for coverage by the end of December.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released updated enrollment figures Monday, along with details of who is getting the government-subsidized private insurance created under President Barack Obama's health revamp.
In Louisiana, more women have signed up than men, and one-third of those getting insurance are in the older, costlier age ranges of 55 to 64 years old.
Four out of every five Louisiana residents who registered for insurance through the marketplace have received federal financial subsidies to help cover costs. More than half of the enrollees have chosen "silver" plans, which are considered mid-level in price and coverage.
The marketplace offers health insurance options for people who are uninsured or who currently pay for individual policies, rather than getting insurance through their jobs. Subsidies are available to low- and middle-income families, as a provision of the federal health law kicks in requiring most people to have insurance or face fines.
Enrollment opened Oct. 1 and continues until March 31. More than 2 million Americans had enrolled through the end of December, according to the HHS data.
In Louisiana, the number of enrollees reached 17,548. That was a sizable surge from a month earlier, when about 2,200 state residents had signed up for health insurance. But it represents only 5 percent of the 344,000 Louisiana residents estimated to be eligible for federal subsidies to pay for insurance.
"We have seen the complaints about the computer system dropping significantly, and the back-office material that we're receiving from the government is improving as well. It's not by any means perfect at this point, but it's much better," said John Maginnis, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, which is offering plans on the website.
Details of the state's marketplace enrollees largely mirrored the national demographics.
Fifty-nine percent of the Louisiana's enrollees are female, compared to about 54 percent nationwide, according to the data.
Meanwhile, 27 percent of the people who signed up for insurance coverage in Louisiana are in the coveted 18 to 34 age group, compared to 24 percent nationally. Thirty-two percent of the state's enrollees are aged 55 to 64, similar to the 33 percent across the U.S.
If insurance coverage skews too much to older people, that could push up insurance rates. States need younger, healthier people paying into the insurance system to help offset the costs of covering older people, who tend to be sicker and use their insurance coverage more.
Louisiana is one of 36 states using the federal www.healthcare.gov website, rather than creating its own state-run insurance marketplace. Gov. Bobby Jindal is an opponent of the federal health law and refused to build a state online insurance shopping site.
Two companies are offering insurance plans on the marketplace in every parish across Louisiana: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Louisiana Health Cooperative. Vantage Health Plan is offering coverage for most parishes.
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