Open enrollment ends Feb. 15, 2015.
More than 39,000 Kansans signed up for health care coverage through the federally run exchange in the first month of open enrollment.
People who want to purchase individual or family coverage have until Feb. 15 to sign up. Penalties for not buying insurance will rise to 2 percent of a household’s income or $325 this year, unless the household qualifies for an exemption because of financial hardship or some other reason. In the first year, the penalty was only 1 percent of household income, or $95.
In Kansas, 39,023 people had chosen a plan through the exchange as of Dec. 15, meaning their coverage will start Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People who sign up by Jan. 15 will be covered starting Feb. 1.
Another 3,912 people in Kansas went to the exchange and were determined to be eligible for Medicaid. Kansas hasn’t elected to expand Medicaid thus far, leaving some people in a coverage gap where they earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for financial aid through the exchange, which had been set up on the assumption that the states would expand it to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project, said about 57,000 people enrolled in the exchange in Kansas last year. They hope to exceed that number, and reaching 39,000 after one month is a good sign because many people tend to make insurance decisions at the last minute, he said.
“It’s encouraging so far, but it’s really too early to include if it’s going to be a great success or not,” he said.
HHS estimated about 53 percent of those who had enrolled as of Dec. 15 were new to the exchange, with the remainder buying coverage again. It didn’t specify whether the people who were new to the exchange had been uninsured before.
The data doesn’t include people who were automatically re-enrolled instead of choosing a new plan, because that process didn’t start until Dec. 16.
About 350,000 people were uninsured in Kansas when the health care law passed, Weisgrau said, and they expected about one-third of them to get coverage through the exchange, one-third to be covered by Medicaid and the remaining one-third to remain uninsured for various reasons.
“You’re looking at about 120,000 people who could get insurance through the marketplace,” he said, using another term to refer to the exchange.
About 80 percent of those who purchased coverage in Kansas as of Dec. 15 were eligible for tax credits to offset some of the cost of their premiums, according to HHS. That was up from 74 percent of those who enrolled in the same period last year, but the extensive problems with enrollment in the first year make the two periods difficult to compare.
“The vast majority were able to lower their costs even further by getting tax credits, making a difference in the bottom lines of so many families,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a news release. “Interest in the Marketplace has been strong during the first month of open enrollment. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before Feb. 15, but this is an encouraging start.”
Nationwide, about 4 million people had signed up through the exchange as of Dec. 15. By Dec. 26, that rose to an estimated 6.5 million people.