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Obamacare Enrollment Got Younger in Late Surge, Officials Say

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- People who waited until the last minute to sign up for Obamacare were significantly younger than those first in line, as the percentage of enrollees younger than 35 jumped in the last month, officials said.

About 35 percent of Americans who signed up for a private plan using new insurance exchanges were in the young adult age group, state insurance commissioners said after a meeting with President Barack Obama and his top staff. That’s a four percentage point rise since March 1, when the government reported than 31 percent were under age 35.

Youth enrollment is treated as a proxy for the number of healthy people signing up, a concern of insurers with plans on the exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. To avoid large premium increases next year, the plans need as many healthy customers as possible to balance the risk of covering older and sicker Americans.

“It’s good news for insurer finances, particularly if lots of healthy people signed up along with younger folks.” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, in Menlo Park, California.

Spokespeople for the Obama administration didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking to confirm the figure.

The commissioners, including Mike Consedine of Pennsylvania and Adam Hamm of North Dakota, met with Obama and aides including outgoing health secretary Kathleen Sebelius for more than an hour today, the commissioners said. Obama provided the new information on enrollment, Consedine told reporters in a conference call.

Hamm, a Republican, cautioned that the figure doesn’t guarantee insurers won’t try to raise rates.

“If it’s folks under the age of 35 who are still sick or are incurring a lot of claims, that’s going to add to the mix in terms of what the rates need to be for those products,” Hamm said. “The more important demographic is what’s the health of folks enrolling in these products.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net Andrew Pollack

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