SEATTLE (AP) -- The average age of people signing up for health insurance through the state of Washington exchange has dropped a little since the state began ramping up its marketing to those under 35, according to numbers released Tuesday by the federal government.
The statistics say people age 18 to 34 now represent 23 percent of sign-ups for private insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder. A similar report concerning sign-ups through December found 21 percent of enrollees in that age group.
A new ad campaign and in-person outreach at rock concerts and at ice hockey and roller derby matches might deserve some of the credit.
Open enrollment for buying private insurance through the exchange ends March 31. Washington is far from its goal of signing up 340,000 people by then. As of March 1, just over 107,000 had signed up for private insurance.
Despite the numbers, exchange spokesman Michael Marchand, who has managed the marketing plan for all kinds of insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, says every Washington resident who didn't have insurance before Oct. 1 and has it now is a success story.
Before health care reform took effect, Washington officials estimated 1 million people in the state did not have health insurance. As of March 1, more than 425,000 of them had enrolled in private insurance or Medicaid, according to figures from the exchange.
While the state has not met its goal for selling private plans, Medicaid goals have been surpassed.
Washington health officials say 202,000 adults who became eligible for Medicaid because of the Affordable Care Act had signed up as of March 1. That number is well above the state's goal of enrolling 136,220 people by April 1.
Another 102,000 Washington residents who were previously eligible for Medicaid but had not signed up have also enrolled since Oct. 1.
"Those were people they were never able to connect with until we started marketing Healhplanfinder," Marchand said.
Marchand expects a lot of people will sign up and pay for new private insurance plans before March 31. As of the beginning of the month, about 78,000 people had completed their applications and needed to pay their first premium.
Advertising on TV, radio, in print and on the Internet is reminding people every day to go to the Healthplanfinder site.
People who want in-person help will have more lots more opportunities in March, with more than 100 events scheduled in King County and more around the state, Marchand said. A list of events is posted on the exchange's corporate website.
Exchange officials don't want the public to wait until March 31 to begin the process or to finish.
"The earlier they start the better off they are in getting through the application," Marchand said.
He insisted that's not because the website will have problems on heavy traffic days. Instead, Marchand worries that some people who put typos in their application or forget to fill out part of the form might not have time to fix the problems before the March 31 deadline.
Insurance agents and brokers can also sign people up for insurance through March 31.
The next enrollment period for private insurance starts in November. Medicaid has year-round enrollment.
Washington Exchange Corporate Site: http://www.wahbexchange.org/
Insurance signup site: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org