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Zaegel

Hoosier health plan enrollment quadruples, November over October

Four times as many Hoosiers selected insurance plans through the federal Affordable Care Act in November than in October, the first month of enrollment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday that 2,791 residents of Indiana chose coverage plans in November, compared with 701 in the previous month.

The number of completed enrollment applications ticked up in November: about 18,700 applications for 37,700 individuals, compared with nearly 16,000 applications for 32,000 people in October.

Once applications are completed, they are reviewed for eligibility; once eligible, enrollees then select an insurance plan.

The number of Hoosiers deemed eligible for insurance by HHS increased by about 150, to 19,652 in November. About half of them were eligible for federal assistance. And 16,723 applicants since Oct. 1 were eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Only six applicants helped by Neighborhood Health Clinics of Fort Wayne have selected insurance plans, according to Angie Zaegel, vice president and chief operating officer.

Applicants "want to think about it. It's a big purchase," Zaegel said. "There are 54 options available, so that's a lot of information to go through."

She said some enrollees may delay a decision because the first premium is due within a month after selecting a plan.

Zaegel urged enrollees to contact the insurers they select "to make sure everything is progressing as it should" and "so nothing falls through the cracks."

Although open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act lasts until March 31, enrollees who want coverage on Jan. 1 must select a plan by Dec. 23.

Neighborhood Health Clinics, a nonprofit health care provider for low-income people, is a federally approved center for enrollment application assistance. Zaegel said the organization is increasing staffing to meet the demand for help with applications, which take about 90 minutes to fill out.

"The word is getting out there, and people are more interested," she said.

Indiana's figures for the first two months of enrollment were roughly the same as those in Arizona, a state with about the same population and that, like Indiana, is participating in the federal insurance exchange as opposed to a state-run exchange.

Both states lagged participation levels in Tennessee, a slightly less-populated state.

Tennessee counted 4,500 more completed applications, 14,200 more eligible applicants and 1,000 more insurance plan enrollments than Indiana did, according to the HHS report. The eligibility total was partly offset by the fact that nearly 11,000 fewer people in Tennessee were determined eligible for Medicaid or CHIP than in Indiana.

About 258,500 Americans selected insurance plans through federal and state exchanges in November, compared with 106,200 in October, the HHS report said. The number of completed applications rose from 846,200 in October to 981,300 in November.

To date, HHS has determined that more than 2.3 million people listed in applications are eligible for coverage. More than 803,000 applicants have been declared eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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