Government, Health Care, and Technology

Obamacare signs up 6,800 in Michigan

December 18, 2013
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LANSING — Fewer than 7,000 Michigan residents purchased health insurance through the federal government's online insurance marketplace during the first two months of enrollment — a small number considering hundreds of thousands of people are anticipated to be covered in 2014.

Data released last week by President Barack Obama's administration show that about 5,500 adults and children will be covered by private insurance plans that were purchased in November through the federal website or call center. About 1,300 people enrolled in plans in October.

The website, which was plagued by problems during its rollout, allows consumers to compare and buy insurance. It's a key element of the president's health care law.

Dec. 23 is the deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1. Enrollment continues until the end of March and then starts up again next October.

However, the state has estimated that at least 365,000 people could sign up to be covered in 2014, though outside estimates put the figure at 127,000.

About 98,000 Michigan residents registered on the website, called a health care exchange, in October and November, with many waiting to actually buy a plan. Of those, about 75,000 people were deemed eligible for plans offered through the exchange, including 29,000 who were eligible for tax credits to offset some of their premium.

Separately, nearly 7,400 were ruled eligible for government-provided health care through Medicaid.

"Evidence of the technical improvements to can be seen in the enrollment numbers," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they'll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past — like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition."

Michigan is among 36 states that didn't set up their own exchange and are using the federal government's site.

Online, state-level insurance markets were envisioned as the new portal to coverage for people who didn't have health plans on the job. But the federal market was overwhelmed by technical problems when it opened Oct. 1.

Nationwide enrollment statistics from the Health and Human Services Department show that 364,682 people signed up for private coverage as of Nov. 30. Although that's more than three times the October total, it's less than one-third of the 1.2 million people officials had originally projected would enroll nationwide by the end of November.

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