New Obamacare enrollment in L.A. County tops 81,000 as deadline nears

New Obamacare enrollment in California nears 300,000 ahead of Sunday sign-up deadline

More than 81,000 people in Los Angeles County have newly signed up for Obamacare coverage ahead of the Sunday deadline for open enrollment.

The pace of enrollment in the L.A. area has slowed considerably from a year ago when 400,889 people signed up during the first six-month enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act.

That high turnout surpassed enrollment in most other states last year.

However, as predicted by many experts, persuading the remaining uninsured to buy coverage has been more difficult in year two of the health law after such a strong response initially.

Surveys have shown that many of the uninsured feel health insurance is still too expensive or they might not be aware they qualify for federal subsidies to lower their premiums.

New state figures show that 81,321 people in L.A. County have enrolled through the Covered California insurance exchange from Nov. 15 to Feb. 2.

That represents 28% of the 288,558 people newly enrolled statewide. Those numbers don't include nearly 1 million policyholder renewals, which haven't been released on a county level.

For new enrollment, San Diego County has overtaken Orange County for second place statewide with 28,394 enrollees. Orange County had 27,653 as of Feb. 2, according to state data.

Riverside County is next at 15,029 new policyholders, followed by Alameda County with 13,266.

Covered California saw a surge of applicants at last year's deadline, and officials are hoping for another big turnout to reach their goal of 1.7 million people enrolled.

That might be a tall order with one week to go and Covered California sitting at about 1.2 million renewals and newly insured overall.

Details on enrollment events across the state can be found at www.coveredca.com.

Enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for low-income residents, remains open year round.

People who fail to get health insurance face a steeper fine for 2015.

For the 2014 tax year, the penalty is $95 per adult or 1% of modified adjusted gross income, whichever is higher. Those penalties increase for 2015 to $325 per adult or 2% of income.

People can seek exemptions to the federal fines because of financial hardship or other reasons.

Twitter: @chadterhune

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