By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
and Kevin Vineys
WASHINGTON: Most states are still lagging when it comes to sign-ups under President Barack Obama’s health-care law, but an Associated Press analysis of numbers reported Wednesday finds a dozen getting ahead of the game.
Huge disparities are emerging in how well states are living up to federal enrollment targets, and that will help determine if the White House reaches its unofficial goal of having 7 million signed up by the end of March, six weeks away.
Connecticut is the nation’s over-achiever, signing up more than twice the number of residents it had been projected to enroll by the end of January. Massachusetts, which pioneered the approach Obama took in his law, is at the bottom of the list — having met only 5 percent of its target.
Six Republican-led states — Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — are on pace or better.
The administration said Wednesday about 1 million people signed up for private insurance under the health law in January, extending a turnaround from early days when a dysfunctional website frustrated consumers. There were fewer enrollments than in December, but a drop-off had been expected.
The new national numbers show that nearly 3.3 million people signed up from last Oct. 1 through Feb. 1.
“It’s very, very encouraging news,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We’re seeing a healthy growth in enrollment.” Still, the goal of 7 million by the end of March seems like a stretch.
Also, officials are unable to say how many of those who signed up were previously uninsured — the ultimate test of Obama’s hard-fought overhaul. And they don’t know how many have sealed the deal by paying their premiums.
The numbers showed an uptick in the number of young adults signing up, now 25 percent of the total. Officials expect a last-minute surge of 18-34 year olds before the end of open enrollment on Mar. 31. Their premiums are needed to help with the cost of care for older adults.
Overall, 4 in 5 of those signing up were eligible for financial assistance with their premiums or out-of-pocket expenses.
“Enrollment will continue to increase because it’s easier to sign up,” said Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Data Access Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota. “What everybody hopes is that we see more young people and families with young children enrolling, to give the insurance pools a healthy mix of younger and older people.”