AUGUSTA, Maine — More than five times as many Mainers have picked health insurance plans on the federal online exchange in the second month of enrollment compared to the first, according to government figures released Wednesday.
Roughly 1,480 Mainers picked a plan last month, up from about 270 in October, the first month of open enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. In total, about 1,750 Mainers have enrolled in the exchange, a key component of the health care law championed by President Barack Obama. But that's still only a fraction of Maine residents eligible to use the exchange, or marketplace.
The significant uptick in enrollment numbers isn't surprising given the improvements the website has experienced over the last month, said Wendy Wolf, president and CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation.
"What we're hearing from navigators and other assisters is that it is now highly likely that people are completing enrollment," she said.
The first few weeks of open enrollment on the federally run exchange were riddled with technical glitches that prevented many from picking plans. Navigators helping residents to sign up for coverage in Maine say that it's recently started working much better, but that some challenges remain.
Nearly 8,840 Maine residents completed applications for coverage over the two months, according to Wednesday's report, which signals that more residents are interested in enrolling. Those applications were submitted on behalf of 16,325 people, including spouses, children and other dependents.
State officials have estimated that as many as 250,000 residents, including about 130,000 uninsured, could use the marketplace, but say far fewer are expected to actually do because many will likely choose plans from insurers that are not offered by the exchange. But those who want to ensure they have coverage by Jan. 1 are quickly running up against the Dec. 23 deadline.
Nationally, about 364,000 people had signed up as of the end of November. That's more than three times the October total, but it's still not close to the numbers that the federal government had projected.