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Health care signups: More older Americans so far

Obama US Spain

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's an older, costlier crowd that's signing up so far for health insurance under President Barack Obama's law, according to government figures released Monday. Enrollments are lower for the healthy, younger Americans who will be needed to keep premiums from rising.

Young adults from 18 to 34 are only 24 percent of total enrollment, the administration said in its first signup figures broken down for age, gender and other details. With the HealthCare.gov website now working, the figures cover the more than 2 million Americans who had signed up for government-subsidized private insurance through the end of December in new federal and state markets.

Enrolling young and healthy people is important because they generally pay more into the system than they take out, subsidizing older adults. While 24 percent is not a bad start, say independent experts, it should be closer to 40 percent to help keep premiums down.

Adults ages 55-64 were the most heavily represented in the signups, accounting for 33 percent of the total. Overall, the premiums paid by people in that demographic don't fully cover their medical expenses. Some are in the waiting room for Medicare; that coverage starts at age 65.

Some questions remained unanswered.

For example, the administration is unable to say how of many of those enrolling for coverage had been previously uninsured. Some might have been among the more than 4.7 million insured people whose previous policies were canceled because they didn't meet the law's standards.

"The uninsured folks for whom the law was intended don't seem to have signed up in nearly as high numbers," said Richard Foster, a former statistics chief for the Health and Human Services department. "There is still a huge unknown aspect to this."

But even if the age mix remains tilted toward older adults, "it's nothing of the sort that would trigger instability in the system," said Larry Levitt, an insurance expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums would go up next year for the overhaul, along with taxpayer costs per enrollee, but not enough to push the system into a "death spiral" in which rising premiums discourage healthy people from signing up.

Levitt and other experts expected older, sicker people to be more heavily represented in the early numbers. They would have had strong motivation to persevere in the face of website dysfunction.

Still, he said "it underscores a need to heighten outreach efforts to young people." Adults ages 18-34 represent 40 percent of the target group for the health care law, according to a recent Kaiser study. Open enrollment ends March 31.

Considering that the federal health care website was down most of the time in October, administration officials said they were pleased that the percentage of young adults was as high as it was.

"We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by," said Gary Cohen, head of the HHS office in charge of Obama's push to cover the uninsured. And there's a hammer, too: Those who fail to sign up face a tax penalty in 2015 for being uninsured.

With Monday's numbers, a fuller picture has started to emerge of who's signing up.

Some of the highlights:

- The administration continues to play catch-up. Originally, officials hoped to sign up more than 3.3 million people through the end of 2013, nearly halfway to the goal of 7 million enrollments by the end of March. Instead, enrollment as of Dec. 31 was not quite 2.2 million.

- Fifty-four percent of those who signed up were women, a slightly higher proportion of females than in the population.

- Nearly four out of five who signed up got financial help with their premiums.

- The most popular coverage option was a so-called silver plan, which covers about 70 percent of expected medical costs. Three out of five people picked silver. One in five picked a lower-cost bronze plan. Only 13 percent picked gold, which most closely compares to the typical employer plan. Another 7 percent went for top-tier platinum plans, and about 1 percent picked skimpy "catastrophic" plans available only to certain groups of people, including those under 30.

- A few states accounted for a huge share of the enrollment. California alone had 23 percent of the signups. California, New York, Florida, Texas and North Carolina accounted for nearly half the total.

Officials remain confident they'll be able to get young adults interested. Insurers, nonprofit groups, and advocates are moving ahead with marketing campaigns that were put on hold when the federal website that serves 36 states was struggling.

Administration officials said that in the coming weeks they plan to increase outreach to young people in 25 communities located in states served by the federal website. That effort includes a national youth enrollment day on Feb. 15 and targeted outreach by sororities and fraternities, as well as Voto Latino, which focuses on Hispanic youth.

In Miami, 19-year-old college student Stacy Sylvain was one of the last-minute online signups as 2013 drew to a close. In about an hour, the part-time waitress signed up for a plan with a $158 monthly premium, with the feds kicking in $48. She has a $2,500 deductible. Sylvain said she had no trouble navigating the website.

"Many people have a preconceived notion that young people are healthy and don't need to go to the doctor," said Sylvain, who suffered a minor injury when she fell and hit her head during an indoor soccer class in 2012. "Not having to worry about being uninsured and the what-ifs has made an incredible impact on my life."

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Mickey January 14 2014 at 9:05 PM

It makes me sad how our own selves we are running this country to the ground. i can say for personal experience i'am a 24 yr old male whom if it wasn't for Obamacare, i would not be able to get my physical exam and biometric check up this year nor would i be getting new glasses and getting checked for Glaucoma. From my point of view and experiences i go through what i deal with on a daily basis, this healhcare is something very important and noone explains it to us when we are young (my age) so we dont see the importance of it. Also if people my age had WELL DECENT PAYING MINIMUM WAGE jobs which is what we can MOSTLY GET because most of us are in college and getting our degrees for WELL PAYING JOBS then we can afford health care and such...but dammit i wish we could all put our greediness aside and see this for OUR COUNTRY AND OUR FUTURE OUR CHILDRENS CHILDREN i mean after all what else are we put on this planet for?

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omayer1 January 15 2014 at 12:47 AM

What a troll ass comment. At 24 you have no need for Obortioncare. You are just a ******* shell **** fo Mr Zebra.

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Timothy Daube January 17 2014 at 5:28 PM

the people ruining this country are the ones spending trillions of dollars we don't have and leaving it to the next generation to pay. running up our debt is irresponsible. this is not what we should be teaching our kids to do. people need to have fiscal responsibility. ask what you can do for your country not what your country can do for you as JFK said. the freeloading American is destroying our Capitalistic freedoms. The health care companys should not be told by the government what they should be selling and at what prices. Its pathetic how many people feel entitled to free stuff. Why should somebody else pay for your health care? your just an example of a freeloader. Enititled little boy. Be a man and work for your own stuff. Stop taking things for free! Because that is what your doing by signing up for Obamacare. Being a little boy!!

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tbird57lover January 14 2014 at 8:33 PM

I yearn for the day I won't be bombarded with this America haters photo and all his wild claims about how Obamacare will make all our lives better. Not only is he the CONSUMATE LIAR, but while so many Americans "sleep with their heads buried deep in the sand," he and his co-horts are systematically destroying our once great America.

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hd88softail January 14 2014 at 6:58 PM

I know I kinow I am supposed to comment on the topic at hand but, anybody notice Barry is looking pretty old these days with the gray kicking in & in some cases looking tired & burned out? Wow what a difference since 2008 huh? Yeah I know we all get older but this Man-Child is loosing it! He has lost all reality with the world we all live in, like work,filling up your own vehicle,going out to the mail box, day to day stuf we all deal with. I say Impeach now or at least make him a none entity for the the rest of his term. Worst Prez ever! Can't wait untill 2016 people! A much better crook in the white house would be great! Just saying........................

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hello bill March 28 2014 at 11:49 AM

agree. the thing worse will be in in 2016, ben gazie hillery

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windsprit46 January 14 2014 at 6:48 PM

Many people in this country will lose everything. Good American citizens that were born here will lose everything because of all the foreigners that have come to the United States. United States government went after the Italian Mafia how come they don't go after the Russian mafia the Jamaican mob Mexican Mafia the Chinese mafia etc. it is because they are terrified of. If we would've closed our doors 40 years ago we would have known employment we would have no one homeless would have far less crime in our streets would be safe. I know people personally that are in this country 35 years the mother cannot speak English the father barely speaks English the two sons speak English the mother is on welfare the father is on Social Security the oldest son is on Medicaid claiming that he's sick and can't work yet at 10 o'clock at night every night he goes all dressed up to a bar gets drunk comes home and 10 in the morning goes to bed and repeats this every day and this is our money America's money. He was offered many jobs and he got them and he only worked one week at any of these jobs at least 15 jobs inside of six months. I personally got this guy a job he listed that one and a half days and they threw them out because he was sexually harassing young lady. America wake up

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Ehearttopheart January 14 2014 at 6:45 PM

Hello there when you are over 60 yr this will help you right thank you help a young head hip heart surygey will this HELP me

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omayer1 January 15 2014 at 12:49 AM

What in the **** are you trying to say? Learn basic english and try again.

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monza866 January 14 2014 at 6:36 PM

Another miscalculation by Obamacare. Young people don't see the need and are not signing up. So who is gonna pay the freight? Sounds like it will be another Ponzi scheme we will be stuck with. Thanks Barry.

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Velma January 14 2014 at 6:32 PM

ME! I now have better insurance, cheaper with only a $5 copay. Unreal. My son's was only $29 a month....we both work full time but could not afford our employers insurance. Personally, I'm delighted! Thank you Mr. President!!! xoxo

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SJMscribe January 14 2014 at 8:47 PM

There is no way that is true! I did not see anything with those kind of costs.

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hruskaspring January 14 2014 at 6:28 PM

so why did u all vote for him, worst president ever and 2 terms of him

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3 replies to hruskaspring's comment
Pazta B January 14 2014 at 6:23 PM

I resent being told by the government that I have to buy their product when I was satisfied with the product that I was paying for. I particular I resent living in the land of the free and being told that I have to buy an inferior product. BO told us that he would bring in hope and change. He was absolutely right. I now am truly hoping things will change. Let's begin with him.

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Velma January 14 2014 at 6:34 PM

Get over it. They tell you to pay taxes...you pay taxes. They tell you you have to have car insurance....you get car insurance. It's the law and you WILL buy insurance or you WILL pay a penalty. Deal with it big baby.

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omayer1 January 15 2014 at 12:53 AM

So if they tell you to stick a ***** up your ass then you'll stick a ***** up your ass. ******* sheeple.

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Junior January 14 2014 at 6:36 PM

AMEN!

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markschupp January 14 2014 at 6:21 PM

The Pyongyang Times editorial stated that Barack Obama was getting increasingly frustrated with his two feckless relatives, who lived in the U.S. illegally, didn't pay taxes, sponged off America's housing, healthcare and welfare systems under multiple names, incessantly complained, got arrested repeatedly, and caused all kinds of trouble, thus tarnishing his otherwise impeccable reputation and stellar political career, which was why Obama decided to feed them to the dogs.

That turns out to be not true: latest reports indicate that Uncle Omar and Auntie Zeituni are still receiving government assistance.

According to the Pyongyang story, the President's symbolic calls for the prosecution of his relatives and other attempts to distance himself from them didn't work. So when Obama saw a report about Kim Jong-un feeding his own crazy uncle to the dogs, he knew what he had to do.

A firm believer that people overseas always know better and have superior customs and political systems, President Obama decided it was time to break with the barbaric tradition of throwing people under the bus and start executing them in style, according to these new international norms. The North Korean report further quoted him as saying, "I wish I hadn't thrown my preacher, Jeremiah Wright, and my white grandmother under the bus; I could now feed them to the dogs."

The Pyongyang editorial alleges that Barack Obama had his Uncle Omar and Auntie Zeituni delivered to an underground chamber beneath the White house, where he let a pack of dogs attack them until they had been completely eaten. The event was said to have been supervised by President Obama himself, along with his 300 czars, political consultants, campaign staff, and one OFA activist who had donated $3 and won a ticket to visit the White House.

Obama was later "greatly dismayed," the article claims, when he discovered that the story about Kim Jong-un's uncle's execution by dogs was merely a satire originating in China. "Boy, do I have egg on my face!" he was quoted as saying.

Barack Obama, believed to be around 53 years old and born in Hawaii, has been in power for five years and presided over a fundamental transformation of his country into an isolated dictatorship, while tightening his grip on the media, conducting total surveillance of citizens, and persecuting political opposition, The Pyongyang Times editorial claimed, adding that he also "planned and carried out a failed launch of a government website, which is banned under United Nations sanctions."

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