Nearly 2,200 Louisiana residents signed up for health insurance through November with the federally-run online marketplace, a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
Problems continued to plague the website last month, but federal officials say they expect the pace of enrollments to pick up around the country because many of the computer glitches were repaired within recent weeks.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released enrollment figures through Nov. 30, showing about 137,000 people had completed the full process to get coverage across the 36 states using the federal website.
In Louisiana, 2,193 people had made it through the site and selected an insurance plan through the marketplace created under President Barack Obama’s health revamp.
That’s more than five times as many people who were signed up in October, but it’s still less than expected. Enrollment opened on Oct. 1 and continues until March 31.
Meanwhile, applications seeking coverage for 32,300 people in Louisiana have been filed. About 23,200 of those have been deemed eligible for insurance through the marketplace, but they haven’t yet decided whether they’ll buy a coverage plan, according to the federal data.
The marketplace offers health insurance options for people who are uninsured or who currently pay for individual policies, rather than getting insurance through their jobs.
In Louisiana, two companies are offering insurance plans on the marketplace in every parish: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and the Louisiana Health Cooperative. Vantage Health Plan is offering coverage for most parishes.
John Maginnis, a spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, said progress is being made as enrollment levels increase.
“Enrollment is definitely picking up and so is the number of inquiries,” Maginnis said.
He said a “surge” in enrollment is expected in the next 10 days or so prior to the Dec. 23 deadline in order to receive benefits beginning Jan. 1.
Another surge will come prior to the March 31 enrollment deadline, Maginnis said, “human nature being what it is.”
He said it is “too early to tell” whether the company and the Affordable Care Act will come close to approaching the administration’s enrollment goals.
“Everybody experienced a slow start,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal, an opponent of the health law, refused to let the state create its own online marketplace, so Louisiana residents have to sign up through the federal government website at www.healthcare.gov.
Federal subsidies are available to many low- and middle-income families to help cover costs, with 344,000 Louisiana residents estimated to be eligible for the assistance. At the same time, most people need to have insurance by early next year or face fines.
The Advocate’s Washington Bureau Chief Jordan D. Blum contributed to this report.