by: EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)— North Carolina health insurance consumers continued to enroll at a steady clip for private coverage sold on a federally run marketplace, a new report released Tuesday said.
With a deadline looming at the end of March to buy coverage or face a penalty, North Carolina trailed only four other states in enrollment. Just over 200,000 people had selected a health insurance policy by March 1, more than half the nearly 391,000 eligible to enroll in a marketplace plan, the report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.
More than 4.2 million Americans had signed up for government-subsidized private insurance in new federal and state markets.
Chuck Brodsky, 53, of Asheville, signed up for a policy last month through the Healthcare.gov website with the help of a couple of friends who'd already been through the process. He said Tuesday his low income allowed him to qualify for subsidies. More than 90 percent of North Carolina policy buyers qualified for government subsidies in the first five months of policy open enrollment, outstripping the national average of 83 percent of buyers.
Brodsky's policy beginning April 1 will cost $7.43 a month for what he considers better coverage than the previous plan costing him $266.84 a month. Online discussions with peers, who like Brodsky, are making a living as acoustic singer-songwriters led him to shop for himself, he said.
"I'm well aware of other people that have saved a lot of money," Brodsky said. "I have to be very honest — the options are limited and I can't say that there was an ideal plan. I don't love the plan offered and I do have very definite feelings politically about Obamacare overall, but regardless, I do think that in the context of getting a plan under Obamacare I did quite well."
The numbers released Tuesday do not describe how many of those signing up were previously uninsured or how many have followed through and paid their premiums.
North Carolina's reported enrollment so far has outstripped federal projections from last September, before the start of the open enrollment period ending in less than three weeks. Those projections were for almost 153,000 North Carolina residents to sign up for health insurance on the federally run exchange by the end of February and 191,000 people to enroll by March 31.
The projections pegged North Carolina just outside the top 10 in enrollment, in line with its population ranking among states.
More than half the health insurance policies sold on North Carolina's exchange were to people who were 45 and older. One out of four North Carolina policies were purchased by young adults from 18 to 34.
Enrolling young and healthy people is important because they generally pay more into the system than they take out, helping offset the health care costs of older adults. Independent experts say young adults should make up about 40 percent of enrollments to help keep premiums down.
Only California, Florida, Texas and New York signed up more people than North Carolina. All of those states have larger populations than North Carolina. California and New York run their own health insurance marketplaces, while North Carolina was among about three dozen states that opted to leave that task to the federal government.