Kay Temple Kirk of Gender Health Center urges consumers to sign up for health care as Covered California gives consumers until Feb. 4 to finish enrolling in a plan. Claudia Buck The Sacramento Bee
Kay Temple Kirk of Gender Health Center urges consumers to sign up for health care as Covered California gives consumers until Feb. 4 to finish enrolling in a plan. Claudia Buck The Sacramento Bee

Health & Medicine

Sign-ups surge for ACA health insurance in first 2 weeks

By Cathie Anderson

canderson@sacbee.com

November 16, 2017 01:39 PM

UPDATED November 16, 2017 04:21 PM

Covered California announced Thursday that more than 48,000 new consumers have signed up for health insurance offered under the Affordable Care Act, an increase of 23 percent over the same period a year ago.

“Covered California is off to another positive start as consumers take advantage of the lower prices being offered this year to buy quality health care coverage,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, in a prepared statement. “While we are encouraged by these early results, we will continue to work hard to get the word out so consumers know they have until Jan. 31 to sign up for coverage.”

Nationally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported an 80 percent increase in the number of new enrollees between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11. That equates to 1.48 million enrollees this year, compared with 1.13 million in 2016.

HealthSherpa, an online health insurance brokerage, estimates that it helps about 4 percent of consumers nationwide find ACA plans. After reviewing enrollment data for its customers, the company reported that net premiums were lower for 2018 than for 2017.

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About 51 percent of all ACA enrollees had found plans for a monthly premium of $50 or less, HealthSherpa spokeswoman Grace Platon noted, while on the other end of the spectrum, about 20 percent of HealthSherpa clients are paying $250 or more monthly.

The goal for the ACA marketplaces is to sign up enough young, healthy consumers to achieve the actuarial mix that keeps premiums stable. Ideally, actuaries like to see 40 percent of the marketplace comprised of healthy people from ages 18-34.

Chronically ill individuals tend to pay higher premiums to get more generous coverage and access to more specialists, while younger people choose plans with higher deductibles because they don’t expect to visit doctors very often. A mix of the two ensures that health insurers have the revenue to pay expenses.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee