Major Insurer: More Obamacare Sign-Ups Than We Expected

AP

A major health insurance company reported Wednesday that its Obamacare sign-ups were higher than its projections, some of the first concrete evidence that the health care reform law is working from the industry’s perspective.

Joseph Swedish, CEO of WellPoint, told investors that the company had received 500,000 applications through HealthCare.gov and its state-operated counterparts. He said the number was “ahead of our most recent projections.” He added that applications had spiked in December and the company expects another surge before the March 31 deadline to enroll in coverage for 2014.

“We do feel good about what we’ve seen thus far on the exchanges,” Swedish said on the call. “While it is early, we are encouraged by the level of applications we’ve received.”

The majority of those applicants were not previously enrolled with WellPoint, Swedish said, though it wasn’t clear whether they were previously uninsured or insured by another company.

As for the demographic make-up of those enrollees, which will be one of the critical barometers for Obamacare’s success, Swedish said that the numbers were “tracking closely with expectations.” The Obama administration’s original goal had been for close to 40 percent of enrollees to be under 35, but the initial breakdown reported this month showed about 24 percent fell in that age group.

That might not be a major problem for insurers, though, as Swedish said that WellPoint had priced its products expecting its Obamacare enrollees to be older than its existing customers.

Overall, WellPoint executives expressed optimism about what the law would mean for their business.

“We entered 2014 with a strong foundation, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve a growing part of the marketplace this year and into the future,” Swedish said.

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