7.7M ObamaCare customers qualify for subsidies in 2015

7.7M ObamaCare customers qualify for subsidies in 2015
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Nearly nine in 10 people who signed up for healthcare from the federal government this year qualify for subsidies, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

A total of 7.7 million people would receive subsidies this year in the roughly three-dozen states using HealthCare.gov – a figure that has held steady since ObamaCare's first year.

The Obama administration touted the figure Tuesday to show that the vast majority of people in states using the federal exchange rely on subsidies as the Supreme Court weighs a case that could eliminate them.

A total of 34 states using HealthCare.gov could lose subsidies if the court rules against ObamaCare later this spring in King v. Burwell, a GOP-backed lawsuit. A vast amount of federal spending is at stake in the decision – about $2 billion per month, according to the new figures.

On average, a person who qualifies for subsidies would have to pay less than one-quarter of their premium cost. The average subsidy is $263 per month.

While 37 states use HealthCare.gov, only 34 are affected by King v. Burwell. Three states – Nevada, Oregon and New Mexico – had been officially approved as state exchanges before beginning to use the federal government’s platform.

The figures were released as part of a 37-page enrollment report, which offers the most comprehensive glimpse to date of ObamaCare’s fate in 2015.

The enrollment report covers the 11.7 million people who have signed up for ObamaCare, though not necessarily all of those who have paid for their plans. The report shows how many people qualify for subsidies, but not necessarily how many people will receive them.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the total enrollment figure of 11.7 million at a White House event on Monday, which she used as a direct appeal to the court. 

"These numbers show just how important the tax credits are to millions of Americans and to the insurance markets in those states," she said, pointing to states like Texas, Florida and North Carolina. 

The report also showed that ObamaCare's rolls are continuing to grow in 2015.

About 53 percent of people who signed up for coverage this year were first-time buyers, the report showed.

Those 4.6 million new customers were slightly more likely to be younger and more likely to be black or Latino, the administration said. The figures signal some success for national healthcare groups and government officials who cranked up their outreach to younger, more diverse groups this year.

Still, the overall percent of black or Latino Americans signing up for ObamaCare remained largely the same as 2014. Black Americans made up 14 percent of total enrollment in 2015, compared to 17 percent last year. Latinos comprised 11 percent both years.

Dr. Meena Seshamani, director of HHS’s Office of Health Reform, urged caution on the figures because nearly one-third of people did not report their race.

“We’re satisfied where we are by the overall mix of enrollees,” she told reporters Tuesday.

The number of young people who bought coverage remained steady in 2015. People between 18 and 35 who signed up for coverage comprised about 28 percent of all signups, on par with last year.

Kevin Griffis, the department’s acting assistant secretary for public affairs, said the administration believed that insurance companies would again be satisfied by the mix of people enrolled.

In the last year, 25 percent more insurers opted to offer coverage, which Griffis said showed trust in the system.

“Insurers themselves voted with their feet,” Griffis told reporters. We don’t feel like we’ve had that sort of behavior from insurers if they didn’t feel like they had the right mix.”

The enrollment period for 2015 spanned from November to February, though the government will open a special enrollment period for people who were previously uninsured.

This story was updated at 3:15 p.m.