Correction: Health Overhaul-Delaware story

DOVER, Del. (AP) — In a story March 6 about implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Delaware, The Associated Press reported erroneously that only about 20 percent of people who have selected plans in the state's health insurance exchange have actually paid premiums. The 20 percent figure cited by a Department of Insurance analyst is an estimate of those who have not paid premiums.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Del. officials report 7K enrollees in exchange

Delaware officials say about 7,000 enrollments in health insurance exchange; below estimates

RANDALL CHASE

Associated Press

DOVER, Del. (AP) — With the open enrollment period set to expire in about three weeks, the number of Delawareans who have chosen private insurance plans under the federal Affordable Care Act remains far below the initial goal set by state officials.

The number determined to be eligible for health care coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion also remains a fraction of what state officials had estimated last year, according to figures presented to the Delaware Health Care Commission on Thursday.

Meanwhile, one commission member expressed concern about the long-term viability of the federally mandated exchange.

"I think we need to start paying some attention to where we're going to be headed," said Rich Heffron, vice president of government affairs for the state Chamber of Commerce.

Heffron said insurance industry officials are telling him that "the numbers just aren't working."

Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf told the commission that 6,994 people had selected plans in Delaware's health insurance exchange as of Feb. 28, an increase of about 38 percent over the previous month.

Linda Nemes, a Department of Insurance analyst, said perhaps only about 20 percent of people who have selected a plan have not paid for coverage. Officials said more than 75 percent of those who selected plans are eligible for federal premium subsidies.

Officials have said they hoped to enroll 35,000 of the roughly 90,000 uninsured Delawareans in plans under the exchange before open enrollment for coverage this year ends March 31.

"I'm not focused on that goal," Landgraf said Thursday after the commission meeting, adding that there's no way to know how many of the people who have selected an exchange plan were uninsured or were simply changing insurance plans.

Federal officials recently set a target of 8,000 enrollments on Delaware's exchange, less than one-fourth the initial goal set by state officials.

"I feel as long as people are gaining access to health insurance, that that's a good thing," Landgraf said.

Meanwhile, in addition to enrollment on the exchange, another 2,168 Delawareans have been deemed eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion. That represents an increase of 55 percent from the previous month but remains far short of the 20,000 to 30,000 residents that state officials had said might be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage.

Officials, nevertheless, said they are coping with a backlog of Medicaid eligibility determinations.

Meanwhile, Heffron said some employers are discovering that workers are choosing to sign up for Medicaid coverage rather than private health insurance.

"I don't think that's want we what," he said.

Heffron and Nicholas Moriello, an insurance broker, also said brokers were advising small business clients to drop their employee insurance plans and instead provide financial incentives for employees to obtain individual policies.

Moriello suggested that it doesn't make sense for some business owners to offer employee coverage when small-employer rates are higher than individual policy rates for the same level of coverage.

And Heffron expressed concern that workers could soon be paying 200 percent to 300 percent more for health insurance than they are now.

"If that happens, I don't want to be a Democrat running for re-election," he said.

Landgraf, meanwhile, said officials still are working to persuade more young people to sign up for health care coverage.

So-called "young invincibles", ages 18-34, represent about 21 percent of enrollees in Delaware, compared to the national average of about 25 percent.

"We need to convince them that living without health insurance is really not worth the risk, and that accidents do indeed happen," Landgraf said.

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