More residents sign up for health plans

 State demographics mirror federal figures

By Corey Williams
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — About 145,000 Michigan residents have selected private insurance plans under the federal health care law, according to figures released Tuesday by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The state’s numbers on the federal marketplace continue to rise heading toward the April 1 deadline for people to get health coverage or risk fines.

The figures released through the Health and Human Services Department also show about 314,000 people in the state have completed an application and are eligible to enroll in a marketplace plan.

Nationally, 4.2 million people have signed up.

Michigan’s numbers show “lots of opportunity for lots of people within the next three weeks to get themselves covered,” said Terry Burke, vice president of individual business for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “There is still time for people to make themselves available so they can get the coverage they need.”

About 112,000 Michigan residents had signed up between Oct. 1 and the end of January.

Mirroring federal figures, 55 percent of those enrolled in Michigan are women. Michigan’s 55- to 64-year-old age group had the highest percentage enrollment at 32 percent. Nationally, 31 percent were age 34 and younger.

About 87 percent in the state enrolled with financial assistance.

“Our survey data and experience talking to consumers indicate that when they hear about the financial assistance that is available, they’re eager to enroll,” said Erin Knott, state director of Get Covered America.

Get Covered America is a national campaign focused on educating consumers about health coverage and insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

“With just three weeks left in open enrollment, Get Covered America staff and volunteers are blitzing communities across Michigan to ensure consumers who have yet enrolled know how and where to connect to coverage,” Knott said.

Burke said enrollment on the federal marketplace tends to spike around the 15th of each month because people want to be eligible for coverage by the first day of the next month.

“Michigan could end the first open enrollment period with as many as a quarter-million people on the marketplace,” he said.

Blue Cross will partner Saturday with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MI Health Answers program at an area church to educate residents on enrolling in a health plan. Blue Cross agents certified to navigate the marketplace will be available to enroll individuals, the state’s largest health insurer said.

The city of Detroit also is promoting the importance of getting coverage.

Mayor Mike Duggan declared March Affordable Care Act Enrollment Month and opened some Detroit firehouses and recreation centers for residents to sign up.

“Taking the signup process into our neighborhoods will provide easier access for our residents who need assistance with health care enrollment,” Duggan said last month. “Everyone deserves quality, affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act gives people options that fit their needs and their wallets. We want to see as many Detroiters as possible take advantage of this opportunity.”