State Health Exchange Signs Up 11,000 In First Four Days

Health plan sign-ups in the first four days of Covered California’s second season outpaced the early days of last year’s maiden enrollment period by nearly four times, the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange said Thursday.

The exchange said that 11,357 consumers had selected health plans as of Tuesday, noting that last year it took fifteen days to reach a similar number. “We are incredibly heartened,” Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director, told the agency’s board.

Some outside experts said the comparison was not entirely convincing, because last year’s enrollment period was six months and this time it is only three months – and a lot more people know what Covered California is now.

More telling will be the volume of sign-ups leading up to the crunch periods – Dec. 15, which is the last day to buy coverage that begins Jan. 1, and Feb. 15, which is the the last day to buy coverage for all of 2015.

“It’s certainly good news that the pace of sign-ups seems faster than last year, at least at this point,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But it’s way too early to declare success.”

Covered California hopes to have 1.7 million health plan members by mid-February, which would be a net gain of about 500,000 from its current membership. Whether it hits that target depends not only on new enrollees, but also on how many current members renew.

The exchange provided no information on how many of those 1.2 million members have renewed so far, or switched to new exchange-offered plans.

Dylan Roby, a professor at UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, predicted that modest premium increases and a sharp increase in the penalty for not having insurance will draw many people into the exchange this year.

“And the fact that online enrollment works better than last year should make sure that quite a few people will be able to shop for and purchase coverage,” he said.

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