Sixty percent of the people who signed up for private health plans through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange are 45 and older, according to figures released by the federal government Monday.
That’s more than twice the share of people in the coveted under-35 age brackets. Twenty-one percent of enrollees are age 18 to 34.
The figures also show that Connecticut stands out as one of just two states with more men than women signing up for private plans through the exchanges. In Connecticut, 54 percent of enrollees are men and 46 percent are women. Nationally, the opposite is true: 54 percent are women and 46 percent are men.
The numbers, released Monday, cover the first three months of enrollment — Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — in public health insurance exchanges created by the federal health law commonly known as Obamacare.
Nationally, 2.15 million people signed up for private insurance through the exchanges during that period, including 36,000 in Connecticut.
It’s not clear from the figures released Monday how many people have paid their premiums, which is required to get covered.
House Republicans have been pushing the federal government to release more detailed information about enrollment, including the number of people who’ve paid for the new plans. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a two-word statement in response to the federal report: “Who’s paid?”
It’s also not clear how many of the enrollees had some other form of health care coverage previously and how many were uninsured.
The age breakdown of Connecticut exchange enrollees is relatively similar that of the U.S. as a whole. Nationally, 30 percent of exchange enrollees in private insurance plans are under 35, while 55 percent are 45 and older.
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The age of enrollees has been closely watched in Connecticut and across the country. Younger people are generally expected to help balance out the costs of older and less healthy members, so having a sufficient share of younger members is considered key to ensuring that the exchange plans remain viable and don’t face substantial rate increases next year.
Some people, including Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, have suggested that the age balance isn’t as critical early on as some say because there are federal programs in place to insulate insurers from sustaining large losses on individual-market exchange plans through 2016.
Nancy Delew, acting deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the demographics were close to what officials expected. She noted that the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who signed up for private insurance through exchanges, 24 percent, is close to their representation in the overall population. That age group accounts for 26 percent of the country’s population of people under 65, she said.
“We expected older adults to sign up early, and we expect more young adults to come in…by the end of the open enrollment period,” she said during a conference call with reporters. Open enrollment in the exchanges runs through March 31.
Private plans sold through the exchange are grouped into “metal tiers,” which reflect the amount of out-of-pocket costs people will face to get care. Plans that cover the highest share of members’ medical expenses tend to have the highest premiums, while lower-priced plans tend to leave members with larger deductibles and coinsurance when they get care.
In Connecticut, 17 percent of exchange customers picked bronze plans, which have the lowest premiums available to most people, and 26 percent picked gold plans, which generally offer the most generous coverage, and highest costs, of the plans sold through Access Health CT. (In other states, insurers are offering platinum plans that provide a higher level of coverage, but no insurers selling plans in Connecticut chose to offer one.) Two percent of people chose catastrophic plans, which are available to people under 30 and to those whose previous plans were discontinued because of the federal health law.
The majority of exchange customers — 55 percent — bought midlevel silver plans. But in some cases, those are people with low incomes who will receive federal subsidies to reduce their out-of-pocket costs for getting care, making their coverage more generous than even the gold plans.
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Sixty-eight percent of people buying private plans through Connecticut’s exchange are receiving federal financial assistance to discount their premiums, compared to 79 percent of exchange customers in the U.S. overall. The subsidies are available to people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level.
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