A little more than 61,100 Illinoisans selected new health insurance policies created under President Barack Obama’s health care law through Dec. 28, as a last-minute surge in enrollment helped the marketplaces recover from an embarrassing Oct. 1 launch.
The Illinois enrollments are up nearly nine-fold from November, when little more than 7,000 selected policies, according to federal data released Monday. Nationwide, nearly 2.2 million selected a plan, with the vast majority coming in December.
But early data suggest the marketplaces are far more popular among older and potentially less healthy consumers, a trend that threatens to push up premiums in the future unless the law’s supporters can persuade more young, healthy Americans to sign up for insurance.
About 58 percent of those who signed up for coverage in Illinois were age 45 or older, and women outnumbered men, according to the new data, the first time demographic information about people signing up for coverage has been made available.
Just 23 percent in Illinois and about a quarter nationally were between ages 18 and 34 — well below the 40 percent goal set by administration officials — a key demographic that will help offset the cost of insuring older, sicker consumers who tend to ring up more health care costs. The numbers underscore the challenge that remains to drive more so-called young invincibles into coverage with 11 weeks remaining in open enrollment.
Nonetheless, officials expressed optimism that more young people will sign up in the months ahead and said the early figures squared with their expectations rooted in experience from Massachusetts, which launched its health insurance expansion in 2006.
“We think more and more young people will sign up,” said Gary Cohen, who is overseeing the new marketplaces at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
That seems realistic, given that many young people would be unlikely to sign up right away, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation who studies insurance markets.
“I would expect enrollment to surge in second half, particularly in March,” he said.
Coverage started Jan. 1 for those who selected plans before Christmas. But Americans have until the end of March to choose a plan before they risk being penalized under the new law for not having coverage.