ND Obamacare enrollments second lowest in the nation


By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

SLOW ENROLLMENT: Despite early predictions for aggressive enrollment through the health insurance exchange, North Dakota has the second lowest number of people who have selected a policy in the nation.

BISMARCK, N.D. — In January, just 1,433 residents of North Dakota selected a health insurance plan through HealthCare.gov, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released Feb. 12.

According to a previous HHS report, from the Oct. 1 launch of the federal health insurance exchange through Dec. 2, 624 North Dakota selected a policy, bringing the total through the end of January to 4,696.

That makes North Dakota the state with the fewest number of enrollments through the federal exchange in the nation. Hawaii has the fewest at 3,614.

The slow growth in enrollments comes after forecasts for aggressive enrollment in the state. The Obama administration estimated that nearly 70,000 in North Dakota were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act passing, and state officials estimated the Medicaid expansion alone would attract 30,000 new sign-ups.

The Bismarck Tribune reports there have been 3,109 enrollments in the expansion, according to state Department of Human Services officials.

North Dakota’s Legislature did not approve legislation to create a state-based exchange, and it’s one of 35 states that participates in the federally run exchange. State lawmakers did approve a Medicaid expansion that was a companion to the health-care law.

Changes for those who had existing coverage was also expected to create demand through the exchange. According to the North Dakota Insurance Department, 35,585 North Dakotans were pushed off their existing insurance policies thanks to the federal health insurance policy changes, a number amounting to roughly 80 percent of the individual insurance marketplace.

After President Obama announced that those policies could continue to be sold on a temporary basis, some insurance companies opted to keep them active, but Blue Cross Blue Shield, which accounts for more than 31,000 of them, didn’t take the president up on his offer.

It’s unclear from the report how many of those who have selected a policy have made their first payment. The Obama administration defines enrollees as those who have selected plans, but coverage doesn’t start until the insured make their first payment on their selected policy. Only 75 percent of those who have selected a plan through California’s state-run exchange have paid for their policies, according to California Healthline. For Washington’s state-run exchange, that number is 51 percent.

You email Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org

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