California love for ACA only goes so far as sign-ups sag

California led the nation in embracing the health-care law, and in enrolling its citizens for 2014 coverage. This year, however, sign-ups for private health plans in California, New York and other states that opted to build and run their own insurance markets has stagnated.

  •  In California, enrollment was flat, with about 1.4 million signed up, the same as in 2014.
  •  In more conservative parts of the country that declined to participate and where enrollment is run by the federal government, sign-ups have surged.

As an example, for 2015, 1.6 million Floridians chose insurance plans sold through the federal healthcare.gov system, 62% more than a year before, according to an analysis by Charles Gaba, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., who has accurately predicted enrollment under the law.

  • The development is made stranger because California had more uninsured people than any other state in 2013, the year before the health law’s insurance expansions began – 5.8 million, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health research group. About 3.6 million people were uninsured in Florida.

In the 37 states that used the U.S.-run website, growth in sign-ups from 2014 to 2015 ranged from 25% to 81%, according to Gaba. Among states that run their own exchanges, only Massachusetts and Hawaii did better – in part because those two states struggled with technology failures in 2014.

  • Medicaid may be one reason why. Any comparison of enrollment in California and Florida should include people in the program for low-income people, said Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, the state’s Obamacare agency.

California and New York both expanded Medicaid to cover the working poor in 2014. Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and 19 other states didn’t, and as a result some low-income adults in those places who would have been eligible for Medicaid are instead enrolled in private coverage. California’s uninsured population has been halved since last year, including its Medicaid expansion, Howard said.

Modified from an Employee Benefit Advisor article, Bloomberg.com, and other online sources.

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