CHICAGO — — More than 61,000 Illinois residents signed up for private insurance coverage in the first three months they were able to through the troubled HealthCare.gov website — 6,000 less than the federal government had projected, but evidence of the state's increasing progress in getting people to enroll.
Enrollment figures released late Monday afternoon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the pace of people signing up for private coverage between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28 picking up in the state and nationally: 2.2 million Americans have signed up, including 61,111 in Illinois.
The Obama administration had set a goal of signing up 7 million people under the federal health care law by the end of open enrollment season March 31. Online insurance shopping is a key part of the nation's health care law.
Illinois is relying on the federal website because the Legislature didn't approve a state-run marketplace. In October, when the website was barely working, only 1,370 Illinois residents managed to select a health plan and sign up.
The new figures mean an additional 59,741 people in Illinois made it through the process after repairs to the website were made, encouraged in part by a 10-day enrollment push in December.
But before the problems arose, the Obama administration had originally projected that 67,210 Illinois residents would sign up by the end of December.
Jennifer Koehler, the chief of Illinois' insurance marketplace, said Monday the numbers were encouraging but noted "there's still much more work to do to reach Illinois' uninsured population."
She said there is a "solid plan in place" to reach that population in the remaining weeks.
Consumers face a Wednesday deadline if they want to have coverage that starts Feb. 1, though enrollment continues through the end of March.
The health care law requires nearly every American to have insurance coverage or pay either a tax penalty of $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher.
During the three-month period in Illinois, there were 158,123 completed insurance applications representing a total of 246,993 individuals, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Of those who have selected a plan, about 73 percent qualified for financial assistance, slightly lower than the national average of 79 percent.
Broken down by age groups, the percentage of Illinois residents who selected a marketplace plan was largely in line with the national average, except among those between the ages of 55 and 64. Nationally, 33 percent were in that age bracket; in Illinois, the number was stood at 37 percent.
Throughout the country — including Illinois — the fewest amount of people who signed up for insurance fell were ages 34 and under. Illinois will attempt to reach more of that market by targeting younger demographics in an upcoming marketing campaign, which includes Facebook and Twitter ads, Illinois insurance marketplace spokesman Mike Claffey told The Associated Press.
The health law also expands Medicaid in states that have chosen to do so. Illinois officials said Monday that more than 136,000 individuals enrolled in Medicaid coverage under one of the three different application methods: Cook County's early enrollment program, an express enrollment program for food assistance recipients and the state's new Medicaid eligibility website.