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About 121,000 in Illinois sign up for plans through Affordable Care Act

Francisco Marin and his wife are shown being helped by navigator Alejandro Yalibat at the Evanston Public Library in November. Federal officials say that by Dec. 15, about 121,000 people in Illinois had signed up for plans through the Affordable Care Act. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

More than 121,000 people in Illinois selected plans through President Obama’s health care plan in the first month of enrollment, which started in November, the federal government said Tuesday.

Of those 121,243 people, about half — 54 percent — were signing up for the first time; the rest were re-enrolling in a 2015 plan through the online health care marketplace established by the federal law, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Last year, just 61,100 residents in Illinois had signed up for insurance by the end of December. In the six-month open enrollment period from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, a total of about 217,000 Illinois residents selected a plan that they would pay for. An additional 500,000 were enrolled in Medicaid.

HHS noted that the data released Tuesday, which covers Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, is preliminary data. It doesn’t include consumers who automatically re-enrolled in coverage, meaning they took no action to re-enroll. The new report also doesn’t differentiate between people who bought and paid for a health insurance plan versus those who have not made a payment on the insurance plan they selected, HHS has said.

The 2015 open enrollment plan for the Affordable Care Act spans from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. That’s the period during which consumers can purchase a plan on the online marketplace via

“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 February 15, but this is an encouraging start,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement.

Get Covered Illinois Executive Director Jennifer Koehler made similar remarks about the new numbers. “Year two of open enrollment is off to a successful start,” she said.

Nationwide, nearly 6.5 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically re-enrolled, according to a separate HHS report, its weekly enrollment snapshot, which also came out Tuesday. That report factors in people who enrolled between Nov. 15 and Dec. 26, but it doesn’t go into as much detail as the Dec. 15 report.

As of Dec. 15, more than 4 million people had signed up for the first time or re-enrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment. HHS said 3.4 million of those people came from the 37 states, including Illinois, that applied for health insurance through the federal government’s Another 600,000 people from 14 states applied using their state’s own online marketplace.

Florida had the highest enrollment of any state reported to HHS — 673,255 residents selected a plan there for 2015. New York and California — both of which only reported data for new customers, not re-enrolled people — had 42,982 and 118,770, respectively.

Other findings:

– About 80 percent of Illinoisans who selected health insurance plans in the first month of open enrollment were determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums, compared to 73 percent who selected plans over a similar period last year, HHS said. That financial assistance could be in danger if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in March that these subsidies aren’t legal in 36 states, including Illinois, that have a federally-run marketplace. The issue is the way that the language of tax subsidies were written regarding states that don’t run their own online marketplace.

– Two sought-after groups – young people and Latinos – haven’t seen enrollment numbers increase much in 2015, compared to 2014 open enrollment numbers. Nationally, the number of young people, between 18 and 34, who have selected a plan for 2015 so far is 24 percent, compared to 23 percent last year. The proportion of Latinos who reported selecting a plan has been slightly higher in 2015 open enrollment than in 2014 (8 percent in 2015 compared to 7 percent in 2014). Latinos have traditionally had low rates of having health insurance. A few caveats to keep in mind, though. The 2014 open enrollment period that HHS provided looked at for the report spanned from Oct. 1 to Dec. 28, while the 2015 open enrollment period was for a shorter time – Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. But the 2015 open enrollment included data from 37 states, while in 2014, it was 36 states. Race data also isn’t precise, since not everyone indicated their race when applying.

– Nearly 1 million of the Americans who selected a plan so that it would kick in Jan. 1 waited until the final three days before the deadline, Dec. 15, to apply.

The full report can be found at: