California's individual health insurance market grows 64% to 2.2 million

Obamacare effect: California's individual health insurance market expands 64% to 2.2 million

The number of Californians buying individual health insurance soared 64% to nearly 2.2 million as Obamacare took full effect last year, a new report shows.

In California, 843,607 people joined the individual market both inside and outside the Covered California insurance exchange, as of Dec. 31, 2014.

California and three other states -- Florida, Texas and Georgia -- accounted for about half of the enrollment growth nationwide for individual policies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report released Wednesday.

Nationally, 15.5 million people had purchased their own individual health policy by year's end. That's up 4.8 million, or 46%, from December 2013.

The Affordable Care Act triggered a major overhaul of the health insurance market by guaranteeing people coverage regardless of their medical conditions and providing financial subsidies to lower-income consumers.

The healthcare law also requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.

Nearly half of Californians continue to get their health benefits through their employer, but the percentage of California firms offering coverage to workers has been falling in recent years.

Fifty-eight percent of California employers offered coverage to their workers last year, compared with 69% in 2010, according to the California HealthCare Foundation.

The analysis of the individual market published Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation relied on insurers' state regulatory filings as of Dec. 31. The figures don't include the entire open enrollment period, which ended in February.

The Covered California exchange has about 1.4 million people enrolled. Consumers can also buy policies outside the state marketplace, but there are no federal premium subsidies available outside government-run exchanges.

State officials are reminding people they have until Thursday to qualify for a special enrollment period. Consumers can simply attest that they were unaware of the health law's financial penalties for being uninsured.

More than 33,000 Californians have cited that reason for enrolling during the extended period since late February, according to the exchange.

Consumers who experience other qualifying events, such as moving or losing job-based insurance, can also sign up during special enrollment. The state's Medi-Cal program is open year-round.

Twitter: @chadterhune

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