More than 3,300 Alaskans sign up for insurance

JUNEAU — More than 3,300 Alaskans signed up for private health insurance during the first three months of the online marketplace, with the vast majority — 83 percent — receiving federal help in paying their premiums, government figures released Monday show.

The number of sign-ups as of Dec. 28 is up sharply from the end of November, when fewer than 400 Alaskans had selected plans. Nationwide, enrollment through Dec. 28 was nearly 2.2 million. That figure includes enrollment through state-run insurance exchanges.

Alaska is one of 36 states that has relied on a federally run website to provide access to individuals to shop for insurance to help meet requirements of the federal health care law. While the site is working better now, it was plagued with problems after its Oct. 1 launch. About 50 Alaskans had signed up during the first month.

Individuals who wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1 faced a December enrollment deadline. The open enrollment period is currently scheduled to run through March.

Figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday provided greater detail on who is buying insurance on the marketplace.

In Alaska, 52 percent of individuals who have selected plans are female and 48 percent male.

The highest percentage of individuals selecting plans fell into the age bracket of 55 to 64, at 29 percent. About 27 percent of individuals signing up were between the ages of 18 and 34. The national enrollment percentage for that age group was 24 percent. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, young adults will be cross-subsidizing older adults, and adults age 18-34 represent 40 percent of the law’s target group.

“Today’s enrollment numbers demonstrate that as we continue to fix the website and allow for better access, more Alaskans have been able to find affordable health care,” U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat and the only member of Alaska’s congressional delegation who supports the health care law, said in a statement. “My office continues to work with Alaskans and address their concerns, but I am pleased that we are hearing more stories of enrollment successes.”

Rep. Don Young said in a statement that a large portion of the law “is supported by the idea that healthy young Americans will purchase a bad product not suited for their needs.” The Republican lawmaker said the latest numbers “show us America wasn’t fooled by this Administration’s smoke and mirrors ...”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, also a Republican, said she’s hearing from young Alaskans who are choosing the penalty for not having insurance over “a budget-busting premium.” She said in a statement that the law is falling short of delivering lower costs and better access.

In Alaska, the most popular coverage option was a silver plan, which covers about 70 percent of expected medical costs; 62 percent of Alaskans chose that option. Just 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan, which is designed to protect customers from very high medical costs.

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