California exchange updates enrollment figures

California's insurance exchange is boosting outreach to uninsured people ahead of a March signup deadline under the federal healthcare law. (David McNew/Getty Images / February 19, 2014)

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California's insurance exchange said more than 828,000 people have signed up for Obamacare coverage ahead of a March enrollment deadline.

With six weeks left for open enrollment, the Covered California exchange also unveiled new TV ads Wednesday aimed at reaching uninsured Latinos.

The state exchange said it saw an uptick in Latino enrollment during January after a slow start in the fall. The state said 28% of enrollees last month identified themselves as Latino, compared to 18% for October through December.

Latinos represent more than half of the state's uninsured population, and many of them qualify for federal premium subsidies under the healthcare law.

Full coverage: Obamacare rolls out

Covered California said it will spend $8.2 million through March on Spanish-language advertising, up 73% from what it spent in the fourth quarter. The state is also hiring more bilingual call-center employees and looking to host more enrollment events at Latino supermarkets in Southern California.

For the first time, California officials said how many enrollees actually paid their first month's premium. The state said about 80% of people who picked a health plan for Jan. 1 paid in time for coverage to take effect.

Many consumers complained about difficulties with paying their bill and getting accurate information from the exchange and their insurance company in December and January. Many health plans extended payment deadlines in response to those problems.

The rate of signups among people ages 18 to 34 held steady at 26% of overall exchange enrollment. That age group accounts for 36% of people eligible for premium assistance.

Covered California has enrolled 828,638 people in health plans through mid-February. The state said more than 1 million people have been deemed eligible for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

Nationwide, through January, 3.3 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges.

The exchange said it didn't have figures yet from insurers on how many Californians have purchased individual policies outside the state marketplace. The state also hasn't tracked how many exchange enrollees were previously uninsured.

Diana Dooley, chairwoman of the state exchange board, said Wednesday that much work remains in the coming weeks and years to fully implement the Affordable Care Act.

"We are doing pretty well," she said at an event in Washington. "We are not perfect or out of the woods yet. This is a long and very significant change to our system that will take many, many years."

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