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With major website woes over, Obamacare enrollment surges to 3.3m, nearly 300k in FL

@MarcACaputo

Nearly 300,000 Floridians have signed up for Affordable Care Act plans, an 88 percent increase in a month that reflects an enrollment surge coinciding with the end of Obamacare's major website woes.

Florida’s total enrollment, the second-highest in the nation behind California, accounts for almost 9 percent of the nation’s total 3.3 million enrollees, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But though federal officials praised the increases nationwide – a 53 percent uptick of nearly 1.15 million Americans in a month – fewer people will likely sign up for Affordable Care Act plans than initially anticipated.

Enrollment ends March 31.

Also, the proportion of young adult enrollees stands at 25 percent nationwide, 23 percent in Florida. That's below initial estimates.

In touting the new numbers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stressed that the proportion of young adults increased in January by 3 percentage points.

“The covered population is getting younger,” she said. “And much younger Americans are choosing high quality silver, gold or platinum plans.”

But Obamacare likely needs more enrollees aged 18-34. Initial estimates and industry analysts say young people should account for as many as 40 percent of the newly insured population.

Younger people help make sure that insurers have relatively healthy customers to offset the cost of insuring older, sicker people who will sign up for plans that, in some cases, they couldn’t get before Obamacare.

HHS officials refused to say what their target number or percentage is for young enrollees now. They wouldn’t say how many people who signed up for Affordable Care Act plans didn’t have insurance before. Nor would they say how many enrollees have paid for their plans.

And they could not or would not provide an estimate about the number of enrollees who are Hispanic, the least-insured ethnicity in the nation.

“We are encouraged by the number of people that we have seen enroll in plans. Our goal is to enroll as many people as possible,” Julie Bataille, a health agency spokeswoman, said in a conference call with reporters.

“Every individual who is enrolled in a health plan is a success story,” she said. “Those Americans now have access to quality affordable coverage that they didn’t before.”

She said the government is reaching out to people through Twitter, Google hangouts and TV ads that run during the Olympics and National Basketball Association broadcasts.

Enrollment this year will likely be lower than expected due to the botched Obamacare sign-up website, according to a Congressional Budget Office report last week. CBO estimated that 6 million people -- 1 million fewer than initially projected – would sign up.

If the same numbers of people who signed up in January continue to enroll by the March 31 deadline, Obamacare could fall about 700,000 people short of the 6 million enrollee estimate.

Bataille, however, said officials expected a last-minute rush of people who will sign up just before deadline, thereby increasing the enrollment rate.

The website woes aside, the Affordable Care Act would likely have more enrollees if states such as Florida took a more active role in administering the program.

Along with 35 other states, Florida has left the program’s management in the hands of the federal government, which runs the so-called “exchanges” online. Those states’ total enrollment: 1.9 million.

The remaining 15 states and the District of Columbia that manage their own exchanges have about 1.4 million enrollees, a far higher enrollment rate.

Florida has the second-highest rate of the nation’s uninsured, second only to Texas, with about 1 in 4 lacking coverage.

Florida’s total Obamacare enrollment of 296,892 was second only to California, which has a state-run exchange and reported 728,086 enrollees.

New York, which also runs a state exchange, had nearly 212,000 people sign up and Texas, which has no exchange, counts just more than 207,000.

In Florida and the nation, about 56 percent of those in Affordable Care Act plans are women, who can no longer be charged far higher premiums just because of their gender.

“Being a woman, under the Affordable Care Act, is no longer a pre-existing condition,’ Sebelius said, echoing a frequent campaign-trail line of President Obama’s.

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