Nearly 900 Illinois residents per day signed up for coverage on the health insurance marketplace last month, but the state must quicken that pace to reach a goal set by President Barack Obama's administration.
Federal figures released Tuesday show 113,733 Illinois residents signed up for coverage during the first five months of the nation's new marketplace system.
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"February was a busy and productive month, and we are working hard to build on it the next three weeks," said Jennifer Koehler, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, the state's marketplace. The state is working closely with hundreds of groups in communities across Illinois to assist people in the enrollment process, she said.
Nationally, total sign-ups reached 4.2 million, according to the figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services. The administration hasn't said how many of those people were previously uninsured or how many have paid their premiums.
Illinois' tally through the end of February fell just short of the original five-month goal of 114,400 for the state, an estimate contained in a Sept. 5, 2013, departmental memo to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. That report also set a target of 143,000 Illinois enrollees by March 31.
Illinois would have to sign up 944 people per day in March to achieve that overall goal.
One-third of the Illinoisans signing up for coverage are older, ages 55 to 64, a group more likely to have expensive medical needs than younger people. The most popular plans are the so-called silver plans, with 56 percent of Illinois enrollees choosing them over other plans.
The health care law requires nearly every American to have insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty of either $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher.
Time is running out for people who want to buy private health insurance and avoid the penalty. March 15 is the deadline to sign up for coverage that begins on April 1. The open enrollment period closes March 31.
Those who miss the March 31 deadline will have another opportunity to sign up for coverage in November; that coverage would start in January 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).