Covered California Enrollment Numbers Hit 1.4 Million, Lower Than Target

Nearly 500,000 new consumers signed up for insurance and picked a health plan through Covered California through Feb. 22, executive director Peter Lee announced at the exchange board meeting Thursday.

Another 944,000 renewed coverage for 2015 before the end of last year for total enrollment in the individual marketplace of more than 1.4 million.

That’s lower than the program target of 1.7 million, but more sign-ups are expected in the current special enrollment period through April 30 for people who claim they were unaware of the new tax penalty for foregoing insurance.

Those who have signed up are a more diverse mix than last year.

There’s a higher share of Latinos and African Americans, following extensive outreach and marketing efforts to reach these populations.

Thirty-seven percent of new enrollees for 2015 are Latino, up from 31 percent in 2014. Four percent are African American, up from 3 percent.

New enrollees are a slightly younger mix, too. Thirty-four percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, up from 29 percent in 2014.

The more diverse mix and younger tilt are good news, but the lower-than-targeted number so far overall could have financial consequences. Fiscal 2015-16 is the final year of federal startup funding. After that, the program has to be self-supporting.

Total enrollment for 2015 is expected at 1.3 million due to attrition from people who sign up and pick a plan but fail to pay for it .

Current projections for this fiscal year show the program will be within budget, Jim Lombardi, director of the financial management division, told board members Thursday. Covered California should end this year with a little under $300 million in reserves.

If enrollment is lower than forecast, the program can cut expenses, spend more from reserves or increase the per-member per-month fee charged health plans that participate in the pool.

Current fees are $13.95 per member per month for the individual marketplace and $18.50 per member per month for the small employer health options program better known as SHOP. It could take nine to 18 months to change them, Lombardi said.

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