Image: Obamacare Fails to Attract Young People It Needs

Obamacare Fails to Attract Young People It Needs

Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 11:58 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The young, healthy people needed to keep Obamacare from going into a "death spiral" still aren't signing up for insurance, new numbers reveal.

According to state-by-state surveys conducted by CNN, out of the three states that provided their own data, there are fewer Obamacare enrollees between the ages of 18-34 than the government had projected.

Kentucky reported 19 percent of its enrollees are in that younger age bracket. Connecticut reported 22 percent in that age group, and Washington state reported 23 percent.

The numbers still are preliminary, pointed out CNN, as the Department of Health and Human Services has released no demographic data. But they show lower numbers among young people than the Congressional Budget Office had projected, when it said that 2.7 million — or 38 percent — of the 7 million of the those signing up for insurance would be younger adults.

"There's general agreement that we need younger and healthier people to offset the costs of sicker people coming into the system," Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said. "That's what will add more stability."

If not enough young, healthy people sign up, insurers will have to raise their rates, discouraging even more young customers from buying coverage and leading to the "death spiral" critics have warned about.

Others, though, say it's too early to be talking about death spirals.

The open-enrollment period runs through March, and experts say people who are already ill and have no coverage always were expected to sign up for Obamacare quickly, with healthy people putting off their signups.

"It’s too early to know for sure," Mark McClellan, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush and was in charge of launching the Medicare prescription drug program, told Politico. "What’s going to matter is not the enrollment numbers over the next few weeks, but what the enrollment looks like come February or March."

As far as the total number of people signing up is concerned, by Tuesday afternoon, 133,257 had chosen new insurance plans in 14 states that have their own signups, nearly half enrolling over the past two weeks.

California marked one of the largest increases. As of Nov. 2, 35,364 had picked private plans, but by Tuesday, that number was up to 59,000.

Enrollments through the HealthCare.gov site also are starting to climb slightly. By Nov. 2, 26,794 had signed up through the site, but by Tuesday, 43,743 had signed on.

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