(Almost) Final Tally For Obamacare: 254,316 N.J. Residents

NJBIZ — Tuesday, March 10, 2015

By Beth Fitzgerald

The federal government reported Tuesday that 254,316 New Jerseyans have signed up for 2015 health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act through Feb. 22. That is well above the 162,000 who got covered in 2014, the first year of Obamacare.

For New Jerseyans, who either actively shopped around for coverage at HealthCare.gov or were automatically re-enrolled in their 2014 plan, 83 percent — 211,082 — qualified for an average tax credit of $306 per month. The federal Department of Health and Human Services said 38 percent paid $100 or less per month after tax credits.

In New Jersey, 71 percent of individuals had the option of selecting a plan for $100 or less per month.

HHS said 86,087 New Jerseyans under the age of 35 signed up, or 34 percent of total enrollees.

HHS said 48 percent of plan selectors (122,072) in New Jersey are new consumers who did not have get coverage at HealthCare.gov last year and 52 percent (121,101) re-enrolled from last year.

HHS also said 30 percent of consumers, or 75,712, actively shopped for a plan and, of those, 60 percent switched to a plan that was different from what they had in 2014.

Ray Castro, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said HealthCare.gov "continues to benefit New Jersey more than most states. New Jersey's average premium subsidy was $306, which was the 10th-highest in the nation. More people in New Jersey switched plans (60 percent) who actively re-enrolled than the national average (54 percent), which is also a good sign because most likely they could find a better deal this year."

However, Castro said New Jersey still needs to improve in its outreach, given that the percentage of new consumers (48 percent) was lower than the national average (53 percent), as was the percentage of young adults (25 percent versus 28 percent) who selected a plan.

Maura Collinsgru, health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, said: "The numbers tell the story — more consumers signed up, more young people enrolled, more receiving financial assistance, more consumers actively choosing their health plans — the ACA is having a profoundly positive impact all across our state."

She added that, "Having so many New Jerseyans who were actively engaged and eager to secure coverage demonstrates that the need for quality, affordable health coverage remains a priority for New Jersey consumers."

John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey, added, "These numbers are a tangible success resulting from the hard work of many navigators and assisters in our state and the diligence of Region II of HHS."

Open enrollment officially ended Feb. 15. However, beginning Sunday, March 15, and ending April 30, HHS will provide a "special enrollment period" to consumers who will have to pay a penalty for not having health coverage in 2014, and who want to buy a 2015 plan to avoid having to pay a penalty for the second year.

Since 2104, the ACA has required most people to either get health coverage or pay a penalty.

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