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More than 250,000 Coloradans sign up for health coverage

April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm
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photo - Model Meghan McMahon laughs after giving a sticker to Iggy Cole, age 3, who gave it to his baby brother August, as McMahon handed out literature and juice shots on an outdoor pedestrian mall, encouraging the public to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, during a promotional campaign launched by Colorado HealthOP, a independent non-profit health care co-op, in Denver, Thursday March 20, 2014. More than 250,000 Coloradans have become covered through the state-run insurance exchange since enrollment began October 1, 2013, and those who still do not have health insurance have two more weeks to get coverage or pay a fine. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Model Meghan McMahon laughs after giving a sticker to Iggy Cole, age 3, who gave it to his baby brother August, as McMahon handed out literature and juice shots on an outdoor pedestrian mall, encouraging the public to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, during a promotional campaign launched by Colorado HealthOP, a independent non-profit health care co-op, in Denver, Thursday March 20, 2014. More than 250,000 Coloradans have become covered through the state-run insurance exchange since enrollment began October 1, 2013, and those who still do not have health insurance have two more weeks to get coverage or pay a fine. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) 

More than a quarter-million Coloradans signed up for either Medicaid or private insurance through the state's new exchange since it opened six months ago, according to preliminary statistics released Tuesday.

The Affordable Care Act's first open enrollment session ended with Connect for Health Colorado tallying 118,628 enrollments through midnight Monday, according to the exchange.

Another 158,521 people signed up for Medicaid - the federally funded, state-run health care program that offers free coverage to almost all Coloradans who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $16,000 a year.

The figures came a day after the deadline for purchasing health insurance - a date that saw a rush of shoppers visit the state's exchange, as well as assistance sites featuring enrollment guides.

The enrollment figures are likely to rise in the coming weeks as enrollment specialists work through a backlog of customers who tried to sign up Monday, but who encountered technical difficulties.

The exchange set a goal of 136,300 insurance enrollments by Dec. 31 - 98 percent of whom needed to enroll by Monday, according to exchange projections. Its low-end projection was 75,000 enrollments by the end of the year.

The latest enrollment figures garnered praise from two members of the exchange's board of directors.

"With all the changes and all of the bad publicity that the federal site had, I think we are doing quite well," said Mike Fallon, a board member who also works as an emergency room doctor. "And when you compare us to other states, we're doing quite well.

"I think things are as good as we could have hoped for at this point."

He cautioned, however, that insurance rates for 2015 have yet to be set, and he voiced skepticism about whether enough "young invincibles" - Coloradans ages 18 to 34 - signed up. Twenty-six percent of the Colorado exchange's insurance enrollees were in that demographic, while 27 percent of enrollees were in the 55- to 64-year-old age group.

Young people were highly sought, because they are generally considered to be healthier than their older counterparts - an important factor in balancing insurance risk pools.

While Medicaid enrollment continues year-round, the next chance to enroll for health insurance begins Nov. 15, when plans for 2015 go on sale. The only other way for people to enroll in a health insurance before that date is if they have a life-changing event - such as a new job or a divorce.

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