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California Officials Encouraged by 'Young Invincible' Sign-Up Rate

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

November 22, 2013 -- California, which is pushing hard to successfully implement the health care law, is seeing a strong turnout for its state-run marketplace, including among young and healthy applicants, state officials said last week.

At the same time, however, older Californians are enrolling in greater proportions than their share of the state's population.

As of Nov. 19, 360,464 Californians had completed applications for themselves and in some cases, their families. Filling out the application is the first step in enrolling.

Of the 30,830 people who enrolled during the first month of October, about 22.5 percent, or about 6,900 people, were between 18 and 34 years old. That age group makes up about 21 percent of the state's population.

"Not only are we seeing strong enrollment numbers overall, but enrollment in key demographics like the so-called young invincibles is very encouraging," said Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, the state marketplace.

However, about 34 percent of people who enrolled in October were between the ages of 55 and 64, even though that age group makes up only 11 percent of the state population. But Lee had said previously that he expects that to change over time, because older and sicker people were motivated more during the first month of enrollment to make sure they signed up.

The number of people enrolling each day has increased dramatically, with about 10,000 people per day taking the first step of filling out an application. During the first week of October, about 700 people per day took the next step of selecting a plan. By the second week of November, that number had grown to about 2,700 people per day.

About 39 percent of people who applied through Oct. 31 are eligible for Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program. Another 30 percent of applicants were eligible for subsidized coverage, and 31 percent qualify for nonsubsidized coverage. It's not altogether clear yet to what degree the state is reducing the size of its uninsured population, because a number of those coming to the state's exchange are thought to be people who have received cancellation notices in the individual market. California is not permitting insurers to extend those canceled policies.

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