36,000 Mainers selected plans on health exchange

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — More than 36,000 state residents have signed up for plans on the health exchange in the first month of open enrollment, federal officials said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that 39 percent of the 36,132 residents who selected plans between mid-November and mid-December were signing up on the exchange for the first time. Sixty-one percent have re-enrolled after buying a plan during the last open session.

Wendy Wolf, CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation, which is leading the advertising effort for the exchange in the state, said it's "really great news" that a large proportion of the sign-ups are coming from re-enrollees.

"It tells us that people were overall pretty satisfied with their first year of being on the marketplace, enough so that they felt it was worthwhile to actively enroll," said Wolf, who added her organization had set a goal of having 55,000 people sign up by the end of the open enrollment period on Feb. 15.

More than 44,000 Maine residents signed up during last year's six-month enrollment period, and advocates had feared many of them would opt to automatically re-enroll, which could cause their premiums to spike. If they don't update their financial information, they may not be getting the right number of tax credits, and their bills would go up. The numbers released Tuesday don't include those residents who took that route.

Health and Human Services said about 89 percent of residents who selected plans between November and December were eligible for federal tax credits to help them pay for their plans.

Nationally, the department said, more than 4 million people selected plans for the first time or re-enrolled through mid-December.

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