CHICAGO – More than 217,000 Illinois residents chose health plans in the new insurance marketplace under President Barack Obama's health care law, far exceeding the administration's goal for the state, federal officials announced Thursday.
In its report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that enrollment nationwide was 8 million. California had the most enrollees, with 1.4 million, followed by Florida with 983,000 and Texas with more than 733,000. Illinois' numbers exceeded by more than 70,000 the Obama administration's original goal of 143,000.
The federal report also shows that among Illinois residents who voluntarily disclosed their race or ethnicity, 69.1 percent were white, followed by African Americans, who made up 10.5 percent of those who voluntarily disclosed that information.
Latinos lagged in enrollment, making up 9.5 percent of the total who chose a plan and volunteered their ethnicity. Latinos comprise about 16 percent of the population in Illinois, and the federal government estimated earlier this year that 316,000 Latinos were eligible for either the marketplace or expanded Medicaid under the law.
Gov. Pat Quinn said he was encouraged by the state's overall enrollment number and the additional 287,000 who have enrolled in expanded Medicaid coverage.
"We know this number will continue to grow as we push forward with our plans to reform and improve our health care system," he said in a statement.
Volunteers in Illinois found it took persistence to get people to follow through with enrollment, especially among young residents and minorities.
"The more contact we had with those folks, the more likely they were to be enrolled," said David Elin, who directed the Illinois sign-up campaign for Enroll America, a nonprofit with ties to the Obama administration.
The Enroll America campaign built a database on the 180,000 Illinoisans reached by its volunteers, recording information given voluntarily during every contact they made and whether the person targeted reported signing up for coverage.
The campaign's national data – built from similar recorded information across the country – show young people were more than twice as likely to enroll after being contacted four times, and blacks and Latinos were about twice as likely to enroll after four contacts.
Although the official enrollment period ended March 31, people can keep signing up for marketplace plans throughout the year if they qualify for one of the special exceptions, which range from a change in family circumstances to computer issues that kept them from enrolling.
The law's next enrollment period is scheduled to run from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15 for private insurance coverage for 2015.
Medicaid coverage is available any time during the year to those who qualify – people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,104 for an individual).