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Health insurance signups near 33,000 in Louisiana

Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- The number of Louisianians who signed up for health plans through the federal insurance marketplace nearly doubled over the last month, with just under 33,000 people in the state selecting a coverage plan by the end of January.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the latest enrollment data across states Wednesday, covering four months of enrollment.

The report showed a sizable increase in Louisiana from the 17,500 people who had enrolled through December for the government-subsidized private insurance created under President Barack Obama's health overhaul.

By the end of January, the number stood at 32,864.

Sign-ups still represent less than 10 percent of the state residents who were estimated to be eligible for federal financial subsidies to help them pay for coverage through the marketplace.

Enrollment continues until March 31. Four companies are offering insurance options through the marketplace in Louisiana, which is one of 36 states using the federal www.healthcare.gov website. Gov. Bobby Jindal, an opponent of the federal health care law, refused to let the state create its own insurance marketplace.

So far, 85 percent of Louisiana residents who registered for insurance through the marketplace have received subsidies to help cover costs. Sixty percent of the enrollees have chosen "silver" plans, which are considered mid-level in price and coverage.

Even as more people are signed up for coverage, the enrollment demographics stayed largely the same in Louisiana.

More women have signed up than men; 60 percent of the enrollees are female. Thirty percent of those getting insurance are in the older, costlier age ranges of 55 to 64 years old, though another 29 percent are ages 18-34.

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.

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.