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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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1,000 have enrolled in Va.

Friday, November 15, 2013

RICHMOND (AP) — About 1,000 Virginians enrolled in health plans through the federal and state insurance marketplace during its first month.

The enrollments occurred from Oct. 1 through Nov. 1 as the federal government struggled to overcome flaws in the electronic system it operates in Virginia and 35 other states.

Gov. Bob McDonnell decided last year the federal government would run the marketplace in Virginia.

Advocates expect the Virginia numbers to rise, with more than 32,500 people in Virginia eligible to purchase insurance in the marketplace.

“It’s a slow start, but the pace will definitely pick up as improvements are made to the federal website,” Jill A. Hanken, senior attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, told The Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Interest remains very high.”

The center oversees a statewide system of “navigators.” They help people find health insurance coverage in the marketplace through a statewide network called Enroll Virginia.

“Our Enroll Virginia navigators are busy every single day,” Hanken said.

The Obama administration is promising improvements in a federal website so balky that enrollments in October totaled fewer than 27,000 in the 36 states. The administration had said in advance the enrollment numbers would fall far short of initial expectations. After weeks of highly publicized technical woes, they did.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and other federal health officials released the first month of application and enrollment numbers on Wednesday.

The federal and state marketplaces completed more than 846,000 applications for health coverage for more than 1.5 million people. One million of those people were found eligible for coverage in the marketplaces. Of those, about 10 percent completed enrollment for benefits that will take effect Jan. 1.

In Virginia, the federal marketplace completed 21,667 applications for coverage of 42,341 people and found 32,534 were eligible. A total of 1,023 completed enrollment.

The enrollment period will remain open through March 31, but people must enroll and pay their first monthly premium by Dec. 15 to be covered on Jan. 1.


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