At least 38,000 people have signed up for new health plans in the state-run insurance exchanges that opened Oct. 1, while more than 100,000 have completed applications and are close to finishing the process, according to state data.
The data, tabulated by The Wall Street Journal, provide an early but incomplete glimpse of how the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health law is faring. They show that health-law supporters are still a long way off from making a significant dent in the nation's uninsured population, but suggest that the prospect of buying insurance without being asked about medical history has drawn considerable interest across the nation.
The data come from the 14 states that are running their own insurance exchanges, where consumers can shop for coverage. But the state figures are incomplete. The federal government, which is running the exchanges on behalf of the other 36 states, says it won't release enrollment data until November.
Of the 14 states with their own exchanges, only two states have reported substantial numbers of actual enrollees. Kentucky said over the weekend that "over 9,500 Kentuckians count themselves among those as having new health insurance as a result of Kynect," the state's name for its exchange. Washington state said late Monday that about 25,000 people have completed enrollment.
Other states haven't given enrollee numbers, but they have provided data on completed applications to determine applicants' eligibility for federal subsidies. Many of those seeking coverage on the exchanges are eligible either for Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, or for federal subsidies to purchase policies sold on the exchanges by private insurers.
A completed application suggests a person has gotten much of the way toward enrollment and typically needs only to choose among plans before finishing. However, it isn't clear how many will find a plan they like and actually get coverage. Most of Washington state's new enrollees are getting Medicaid coverage, which may be easier to sign up for.
New York state said last week it had 40,000 completed applications, putting it atop the list so far. Neither California nor New York—the two most populous states running their own exchanges—have released enrollment data.
Despite computer problems on the federally run exchange and many state exchanges, officials have released data that they say show high public interest in getting coverage. The Obama administration said Friday that HealthCare.gov, the portal for the federal exchange, had 14.6 million unique visits in the ten days after Oct. 1.
Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the numbers show "strong interest" in getting coverage. "Many consumers are taking their time to consider their options," she said. She added, "We have more than 170 days left to go" until the end of open enrollment March 31.
Health-care consultant Robert Laszewski said negative publicity about technical problems may have deterred some consumers. "Twenty thousand sales at the end of two weeks in nine or ten states is way, way lower than anyone expected," he said. Even Kentucky is only reaching a small fraction of its uninsured, which is "not a good sign, any way you cut it," he said.
Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. lack health insurance, according to the Census Bureau, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges might add some seven million people to the insurance rolls in 2014, a number expected to jump in subsequent years.
Most states, however, have reached only a tiny fraction of their uninsured so far. Maryland, which has some 600,000 uninsured people, had successfully enrolled 1,121 people as of last Thursday, state officials said. The state said nearly 17,000 applicants had received notice of their eligibility for federal subsidies.
Maryland said more than a third of the accounts created came from people under 35, a good sign for the Obama administration, which is trying to encourage younger, healthy Americans to buy health insurance.
Publicly traded health insurers, including Cigna Corp. and Molina Healthcare Inc., declined to disclose their enrollment numbers Monday, saying they would make them public with their next quarterly earnings releases.
Insurers receive nightly reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the number of enrollees in the federal exchange. But it is unclear how complete those reports are.
—Timothy W. Martin and Louise Radnofsky contributed to this article.
Write to Amy Schatz at Amy.Schatz@wsj.com
- Investing Education
- Politics & Government
- The Wall Street Journal
- Barack Obama