Many of nearly 118,000 who signed up for new health insurance in S.C. haven’t paid first premiums

jholleman@thestate.comMay 1, 2014 

— Of the 118,324 in South Carolina who signed up for plans on the new federal Health Insurance Marketplace during the six-month enrollment period, 88 percent were eligible for financial assistance in paying their premiums.

Despite that benefit, many of those apparently decided not to finish the process and pay their first premium. South Carolina officials say 41 percent of people who enrolled hadn’t made their first payment by April 15.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service on Thursday released marketplace numbers for the entire enrollment period, Oct. 1-March 31. The final national tally: 8,019,763 policies were selected nationwide. The agency didn’t detail how many enrollees have paid their first premium.

Ray Farmer, director of the S.C. Department of Insurance, said the number who have paid a premium is the more important number because “that’s how many are insured.”

The numbers gathered by Farmer’s agency are slightly different than the federal numbers, likely due to a different cutoff date for the tabulation as late enrollments continued to come in, he said. The state reported 114,789 people selected policies. Farmer said 59 percent of those paid a first premium by April 15. Those who signed up in March had until May 1 to pay the premium, so the state numbers and percentage could change.

By Farmer’s tally, 89 percent of those who paid premiums were eligible for tax subsidies through the marketplace, and the average age of the people who paid for policies was 43.79.

The federal data released Thursday indicates 34 percent of the people who enrolled in South Carolina were 34 or younger. The number of young people who enroll is important because they are generally healthier, bringing down the average cost to insurers for the larger pool.

The S.C. enrollees were 57 percent female. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) selected the silver-level policies, compared to 10 percent going with the more expensive gold level and 16 percent with the less expensive bronze level. Comparing S.C. numbers to the national figures: 34 percent were 34 or younger; 54 percent were female; 65 percent picked silver plans.

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