SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's new health insurance exchange tentatively enrolled 35,000 people during its first month of operation, a fraction of the eventual goal in the state with the nation's largest uninsured population, federal health officials said Wednesday.
A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided the first glimpse into the operations of Covered California, which faces a monumental task to reach millions of people without insurance and sway them to sign up under the federal Affordable Care Act.
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The report, covering the start of open enrollment on Oct. 1 through Nov. 2, also showed that about 80,000 lower-income people would be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage under another prong of the overhaul.
California counts nearly 7 million people without health coverage. An estimated 2.3 million are expected to enroll in a health plan through the new agency, known as Covered California, by 2017.
Covered California did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on the report.
The 35,000 figure was defined in the federal report as the number of people who have "selected" a plan through the insurance exchange. According to HHS, that means the number of people who have chosen a specific insurance plan, whether or not they have actually followed through and begun paying the premium for it.
The report provided no detailed information about those buying plans or what types of plans they selected. For example, it did not say what percentage of those who have selected plans were in the younger and healthier demographic that is sought by insurance companies to balance out those who are sicker and more expensive to cover.
In addition to the state-by-state numbers, the Health and Human Services report also provided the overall figure for national enrollment under President Barack Obama's national health reforms.
It said that fewer than 27,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website. States running their own websites, including California, did better than the federal government, together reporting more than 79,000 sign-ups.
Even so, total private insurance enrollment after the first month of the health care rollout was only about one-fifth what the administration had expected during that time period.
Enrollment numbers nationwide totaled 106,185. A Sept. 5 administration estimate had projected that 494,620 people would enroll in the first month.