State one of top in U.S. in health care enrollment

SEATTLE — Washington state signed up more people for health insurance than all but a handful of states during the first few months of enrollment under the health care overhaul.

According to a new federal report released Monday, only California, Michigan, North Carolina, New York and Texas have signed up more people up for health insurance since Oct. 1. All of those states have larger populations than Washington.

More than 71,000 people have signed up for private insurance through Washington’s new health care exchange. Another 72,000 will be enrolled after they complete payment on their insurance. The Washington exchange had a goal of getting 130,000 people into private insurance plans by Jan. 1.

The total number of people either buying private insurance or enrolling in free insurance through Medicaid is now more than 248,000. More than 121,000 of those signing up are newly eligible for the expanded Medicaid.

Federal officials also released age and gender breakdowns Monday for the more than 2 million Americans who had enrolled for government-subsidized private insurance by the end of December.

In Washington state, adults ages 55 to 64 were 36 percent of the total. Medicare starts at 65. Another 34 percent were between the ages of 35 and 54.

Young adults from 18 to 34 made up only 21 percent, which independent experts say does not create a good enough mix to control the cost of insurance premiums. Officials say they expect more young people to sign up for private insurance before open enrollment ends March 31.

According to Washington state officials, more than 179,000 additional people have started their health insurance applications through the state exchange, and some will complete their applications by the end of March.

Washington’s demographic numbers on health insurance enrollments are similar to the national average.

Of the people who have signed up for private insurance in Washington so far, more than three out of four have gotten financial help.

Before health care reform took effect, an estimated 1 million Washington residents lacked health insurance.

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