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Young People Flock To N.Y. Insurance Exchange

By Stephen T. Watson, The Buffalo News, N.Y.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 25--One-third of the people who enrolled in a private health plan through New York's insurance exchange are younger than 35, the demographic coveted by insurers and architects of the insurance marketplace, the state Health Department announced.

That is one of the findings of a detailed analysis, released today, of the initial, six-month enrollment period in the NY State of Health exchange.

The exchanges set up in New York and across the country are key pieces of the federal Affordable Care Act, a measure that generated considerable controversy as it sought to lower costs while offering coverage to more of the uninsured.

Enrollment in New York's exchange opened Oct. 1 and ended April 15. The state previously had reported that 960,762 people enrolled in Medicaid, Child Health Plus or a private health plan through the exchange, but today's report offers further details on enrollees and the plans they chose.

The highlights include:

--55 percent of exchange enrollees signed up for Medicaid, and another 7 percent enrolled in Child Health Plus. The other 38 percent enrolled in a private health plan.

--Three-fourths of the 370,604 people who enrolled in a private health plan were eligible for one of the financial subsidies meant to bring down the cost of their insurance. The average tax credit they received was $215 per month.

--74 percent of people who signed up for coverage through the exchange did so after Jan. 1, and 36 percent did so in March alone as the deadline to enroll in coverage for 2014 loomed.

--81 percent of people who enrolled through the exchange reported that they were uninsured at the time. That percentage was higher for people who signed up for Medicaid and lower for people who signed up for private insurance.

--Exchange enrollment roughly followed state population trends, though New York City was slightly overrepresented and Upstate New York was slightly underrepresented. Western New York, for example, has 8 percent of the state's under-65 population and 6 percent of exchange enrollment.

--One-quarter of people who enrolled in a private health plan are 55 to 64 years old, and 23 percent of those enrollees are 45 to 54 years old, and combined they account for nearly half of enrollees in private health plans.

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