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Obamacare enrollment: up to 4.2 million buy health insurance, incl. nearly 114,000 in Illinois

With about two weeks left to the deadline, the latest enrollment numbers show that 113,733 people from Illinois have selected a health insurance plan created by President Barack Obama’s health plan.

Nationally, more than 4.2 million Americans had selected a plan from Oct. 1 to March 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.

Young adults — between 18 and 34 years old — made up 27 percent of total enrollees, showing no increase from the last report from Feb. 1.

Barring a last-minute extension, March 31 is the deadline for people to buy an insurance plan from the online marketplace created under the ACA if they want it to kick in this year.

The enrollment numbers include people who may or may not have already paid a premium for the insurance plan they selected, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said. So, it’s hard to determine how many people have actually enrolled.

The federal government also said they can’t say how many of the people who enrolled in an insurance plan were uninsured before that.

The numbers do not include the millions who have qualified for expanded Medicaid.

Federal officials said they were encouraged by the latest report — both for young people and for all Americans — noting that they expect an enrollment surge as the March 31 deadline approaches.

“What we’re finding is that as more Americans learn just how affordable marketplace insurance can be, more are signing up to get covered,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a media briefing.

Many experts agreed that they expect the federal government to hit its revised target of 6 million people by the end of March. The Obama administration’s original enrollment had been 7 million Americans by the time the initial enrollment period ends in March 2014, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But a revision was made after HealthCare.gov, the federal website where people were supposed to shop for the new insurance plans, went live on Oct. 1 and several glitches were discovered.

“The possibility of reaching the [projection] is quite possible,” said Commonwealth Fund vice president Sara Collins, given that young people are likely to wait until the last minute to enroll.

Experts and a trade group for insurers also downplayed the significance of the enrollment, so far, skewing older.

There’s been a push by the federal government and other proponents of the Affordable Care Act to try and attract young and theoretically healthy people to buy insurance plans, so the prices of the plans stay affordable. Last night, seemingly in a nod to that group, President Obama was interviewed by comedian Zach Galifianakis on the “Between Two Ferns” web series and talked about the law and many other topics.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday’s numbers show that “young adults — those who the White House repeatedly said are critical — are deciding the health care law is a bad deal.”

Experts and a trade group for insurers, though, downplayed the significance of the enrollment, so far, skewing older.

“Age is not the real issue. The real issue is health status,” said Judy Feder, a professor at Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University. “And we won’t know for some time, what the health status is of people signing up.”

As for whether Illinois is on target to hit its own targets for enrollment depends on which numbers are used. Before HealthCare.gov was launched in October, the state had projected that 486,000 people would get coverage by 2014 based on a consultant’s study in 2011. That’s 337,000 people from the individual marketplace and 149,000 people who get it from small businesses.

And compared to similar or smaller states, Tuesday’s report shows Illinois lagged behind other states enrollment numbers. For instance, Pennsylvania, a similar sized stated to Illinois, has had nearly 160,000 people sign up. Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia — smaller states — also showed higher enrollment than Illinois.

In response, Get Covered Illinois noted a Sept. 2013 from the federal government that instead put the Illinois target through February at 114,400.

“So we are at about 99.5 percent of that number,” Mike Claffey, a spokesman for Get Covered Illinois.

That projection expects 143,000 Illinoisans to enroll by March 31.

Earlier in March, the federal government had announced that about 4 million Americans had bought one of the new options for health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act’s HealthCare.gov. Of those, 88,602 were people from Illinois.

Consumers need to have health insurance by March 31 to avoid a fee. People who qualify for Medicaid, though, can enroll at any time.