New Affordable Care Enrollment numbers released Thursday show a near-doubling of health insurance enrollment in the month of March both in Alaska and nationwide.
Here's a snapshot of the Alaska data:
• A total of 12,890 Alaskans enrolled in health care plans under ACA as of March 31. That's nearly double the number of Alaskans who had enrolled as of March 1.
• 88 percent of all enrollees qualified for financial assistance.
• The total was roughly even between men and women -- 6,207 men and 6,680 women.
• Broken down by age group, the highest enrollment was in the 55-64 age bracket, some 26 percent of enrollees.
• The second-highest age group was ages 26-34, which was 21 percent of enrollees.
• Most enrollees -- 65 percent -- chose a silver plan, which offers more coverage than a bronze plan and a lower monthly rate than a gold plan. Only 8 percent chose a gold plan, which offers the highest level of coverage.
Nationwide, more than 8 million people enrolled in health care plans -- and nearly half of those people enrolled during the last month, according to the Department of Health and Social Services report. These numbers include a special enrollment period that lasted through April 19 for people who had begun signing up but hadn't completed the process. The total number is more than initial estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, which had estimated 7 million people would sign up for coverage.
In Alaska, organizations working to sign people up faced a last-minute rush during the final weeks. Sandy McClintock, marketing director for United Way, said the organization's health care navigators were especially busy during the last week of March. She said that challenges remain as the ACA continues to roll out. However, "it really comes down to an individual who sat across from a navigator and worked through, at times, a challenging process," in some cases getting coverage for the first time, she said. "That's a very powerful and positive change."
Tyann Boling, Enroll Alaska chief operating officer, said the insurance brokerage firm also had a busy final month. All told, the company enrolled around 2,500 Alaskans with Healthcare.gov during open enrollment.
Enroll Alaska, a division of Northrim Bank, was the only business engaged in enrolling Alaskans in ACA health insurance. Despite challenges -- from website glitches to the ACA becoming a hot-button political issue -- Boling said she believes the new division will pencil out in the end. Now Enroll Alaska will continue aiding its clients, "really helping Alaskans who for the first time have health insurance to really use (it)," she said.
Al Tamagni, leadership chair with the National Federation of Independent Business, wrote that the numbers look "very promising, particularly up to ages 34." He hopes the numbers will continue to increase.
Open enrollment for ACA coverage ended March 31, but people with a qualifying life event can still apply. That includes marriage, losing coverage due to a job change or divorce, moving to a new state, or being released from incarceration.