Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 18, 2014

Late sign-ups improve outlook for Obama health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A surge of eleventh-hour enrollments has improved the outlook for President Barack Obama's health care law, with more people signing up overall and a much-needed spark of interest among young adults.

Nonetheless, Obama's announcement Thursday that 8 million have signed up for subsidized private insurance, and that 35 percent of them are younger than 35, is just a peek at what might be going on with the nation's newest social program.

Still to be announced is what share of those enrolled were previously uninsured — the true test of Obama's Affordable Care Act — and how many actually secured coverage by paying their first month's premiums.

"This thing is working," a confident Obama said of his signature domestic achievement. The days of website woes and canceled policies seemed far behind.

State-by-state statistics, expected as early as next week, will provide a much fuller picture.

A key question is how many of those signed up were young adults, ages 18-34. They're the health care overhaul's most coveted demographic because they're healthier than older adults and their premiums can help cross-subsidize care for the sick. That would help hold down future premium increases.

According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, young adults 18-34 represent about 40 percent of the people eligible to buy coverage in the health care law's new insurance markets. The White House says that group now accounts for 28 percent of those who have picked a plan in states where the federal government is running the insurance exchanges.

Not perfect, but not bad either, said Larry Levitt, an insurance expert with Kaiser.

"Enrollment among young adults ended up lower than their share of the target population but sufficient to keep the market stable in the vast majority of the country," he said.

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