Health Care Act

North Carolina among top states for ACA enrollment

Billboard from Get Covered America, one of the groups that pushed enrollment in North Carolina.
Billboard from Get Covered America, one of the groups that pushed enrollment in North Carolina. Ann Doss Helms

North Carolina landed near the top of a new national list for getting people health insurance through the federal marketplace, reaching more than half of the estimated 1.1 million people who could have signed up.

And South Carolina wasn’t far behind.

Almost 560,000 North Carolinians bought or renewed policies for 2015 by Sunday’s deadline, the federal government reported this week. Most got federal subsidies through the Affordable Care Act to help low- and moderate-income people pay premiums.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues, used those numbers to calculate market penetration for 37 states using the federal exchange. Only six, including North Carolina, reached more than half the potential market.

South Carolina was in the top 10 with 48 percent, enrolling almost 210,000 of an estimated 441,000 eligible residents.

A strong partnership among state and national advocacy groups, private donors, hospitals and insurance companies likely boosted enrollment in North Carolina, analysts said. Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform for the Kaiser foundation, noted that the national Enroll America campaign helped launch statewide sign-ups for free enrollment help in North Carolina last year, then expanded that approach nationwide this year.

South Carolina’s Palmetto Project, for instance, rolled out a statewide appointment system this year.

Adam Linker, health policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center, noted that North Carolina still hasn’t seen the kind of advertising push that marks a major political campaign. That’s what it may take to reach people who remain unaware and uninsured, he said.

“There’s nothing like that for the Affordable Care Act,” Linker said. “You’ve got to get all over television, all over radio.”

To calculate the number eligible for insurance on the exchange, the Kaiser foundation looked at legal residents who are uninsured or have non-group insurance, subtracting people who are eligible for job-based coverage but refused it and people whose incomes are too low for subsidies.

Market penetration in the 37 federal exchange states ranged from 20 percent in Iowa to 64 percent in Florida. Other states topping 50 percent are Maine, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Hampshire.

Helms: 704-358-5033;

Twitter: @anndosshelms. This article is done in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

One more chance

People who haven’t signed up for health insurance and get hit with a tax penalty this spring will get another chance to enroll on the Affordable Care Act for what’s left of 2015. The federal government announced Friday that there will be a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for uninsured people who realize they must pay a penalty for being uninsured and attest that they weren’t aware of the fee before that.