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More than 700,000 enroll through state insurance exchanges in first month

More than 700,000 enroll through state insurance exchanges in first month

Nearly 740,000 people have selected or re-enrolled into a qualified health plan across 13 state based-exchanges, according to state-released estimates.

Federal exchange has seen 2.5 million people enroll as of Dec.12, bringing total state and federal enrollment and re-enrollment to 3.2 million people. About a third of those who signed up for 2014 coverage did so through state exchanges. The portion of state sign-ups this year is running around 23%

The 3.2 million total sign-ups to date is more than a third of the target of 9.1 million individuals the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicted for 2015 enrollment, which runs through Feb. 15.

Only a handful of the 14 exchanges have publicly clarified what portion of enrollees have been new sign-ups compared with returning customers. Minnesota, for instance, said 9,983 of the 23,797 people who have signed up for a qualified plan as of Dec. 16 are renewals.

Other states are seeing renewals account for a majority of applications. Only 9,215 of the 84,975 who have signed up for a qualified plan thus far in Kentucky are newly enrolled. Just over 10,000 of the 55,925 people joining qualified plans in Washington state are new.

In other instances, such as New York and California, only new-enrollee figures have been released while re-enrollment efforts are ongoing. New York's enrollment has netted nearly 200,000 new customers as of Dec. 17, while California has gotten just over 144,000.

State exchanges have been more aggressive in outreach efforts this year, exchange officials said during a Families USA teleconference. California and Kentucky exchange directors, for example, said they're relying more on storefronts because they know many people prefer in-person support.

Rhode Island, which has a state-based exchange, has yet to release any enrollment data. Other with their own exchanges that have released figures for the current open enrollment period include California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington.

Thus far, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has declined to release enrollment data from state exchanges during briefings with the press on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signups. The reason cited has been is a lack of uncertainty as to what the accurate numbers are. Leadership from the state marketplaces expressed some confusion over the claim Wednesday.

“We submit data every week, do a press release that comes through our governor's office weekly and (state exchange directors) have a call with HHS every other week,” Carrie Banahan, executive director, office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, said during the call.

What might be giving the federal agency pause is that each state has different approaches in how it handles re-enrollment, which would make it difficult to seamlessly put the state's data into weekly HHS enrollment reports, Richard Onizuka, CEO, Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said.

Tuesday, research firm Avalere Health L.L.C. estimated there will be between 4.5 million and 6 million new enrollees by Feb.15 in state and federal exchanges. The estimate was based on the initial pace of sign-ups in the first three weeks of open enrollment. By the end of 2015, enrollment is on track to reach between 9.5 million and 11.5 million, including people renewing their plans, Avalere said.

Virgil Dickson writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.

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