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Policy: Health Care

Health care signups in Utah exceed expectations

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News,Business,Utah,Health Care

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah enrollment in health care plans on the federal website greatly exceeded what the Obama administration expected, according to new government figures released Thursday.

The 84,600 people who signed up by the March 31 deadline marks a 48 percent increase from the administration's target of 57,000 for the state. The numbers come from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The figures indicate there was a huge surge in the final month, with more than half of the enrollees in Utah signing up in March.

Enrollment started slow last fall on an online marketplace plagued by glitches, but it gradually increased with each month.

Nationally, more than 8 million people signed up on the new marketplace.

Utah is one of more than 30 states that left it to the federal government to run its online exchange for individuals to find coverage. The state runs its own exchange for small businesses, which it created in 2009.

In Utah, more women signed up than men: 52-48 percent, Health and Human Services statistics show. The 26-34 age group accounted for the largest group of people enrolled in Utah. More than 6 in 10 enrolled were white, figures show.

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday in a call with reporters that they don't expect to have reliable figures about how many people have paid for premiums until later this year.

Earlier this week, House Republicans unveiled a report that said one-third of people who signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange hadn't paid their first month's premium as of mid-April. In Utah, the report indicated that 73 percent of people in Utah had paid — higher than the national average of 67 percent, but lower than 14 states.

Arkansas, Kansas and South Dakota had the highest rates of people paying, while Texas and Oklahoma had the lowest.

Critics of the health care overhaul said the GOP report brings into question the Obama administration's claims of robust enrollment under the new health law.

Defenders of the health care overhaul said the report is inaccurate and out-of-date since it cut off data in mid-April, failing to capture a surge of health law sign-ups in March prior to the end of the first open enrollment period.

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