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Fifth of state's insurance exchange enrollees from LI

The Internet health insurance exchange on Oct.

The Internet health insurance exchange on Oct. 21, 2013. Credit: Getty Images

Long Island has the second-highest percentage of people signed up for coverage on the state's health insurance exchange, according to a state report released Monday.

Of the 230,624 New Yorkers who have enrolled on New York State of Health for coverage that began Jan. 1, 21 percent were from Long Island, according to the New York State Department of Health. New York City had the highest percentage, with 37 percent. Long Island's 2010 population of 2.8 million was about 14.6 percent of the state's population of 19.4 million.

Open enrollment for individuals continues through March 31.

So far, about 30 percent of enrollees are younger than 35, the report found. That is the same percentage as national data also released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The percentage is important because broadening the insurance pool to include so-called "young invincibles" is considered key to keeping insurance rates low. Experts disagreed on whether the percentage was good news or bad.

"I think these early numbers are encouraging," said David Sandman, senior vice president of the nonprofit New York State Health Foundation. With an additional 16 percent of enrollees who were between the ages of 35 and 44, "that gets you to close to half," Sandman said.

The health department said it expected that trend to increase in the coming months and that it had targeted younger groups.

But Leslie Moran, a spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association, an industry group, said that "by all industry experts' analysis, that's a little on the low side."

That means, she said, 70 percent of people are older than 35 and thus more likely to be sicker and use their insurance more.

State legislators cited problems with the rollout of the exchange during a Senate oversight hearing in Albany Monday.

Senate Health Committee chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and other Republican senators said they had heard complaints about limited or inaccurate information from the plans and slow processing of people who had signed up. They said enrollees also complained they hadn't received insurance cards and have limited choices for their doctors.

"The lack of information is incredible, and it's going to result in bad patient care," Hannon said.

But Donna Frescatore, executive director of the state's health marketplace, called the launch "an overwhelming success."

But, she said, it is "a continuous process of operational improvements."

According to the state, 44 percent of those who signed up for private health plans had been uninsured.

"That figure was a big unknown," Sandman said. "You had a good percentage of people who had no coverage and other people finding a better deal."

Janine Logan, a spokeswoman for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, designated by the state as a navigator agency, said most of the 1,000 Long Islanders it helped to enroll had "arrived as uninsured individuals."

Most people also took advantage of financial assistance -- 68 percent -- and silver plans were by far the most popular, the state said. Silver plans were the only ones also eligible for financial assistance.

The state said six of the 16 insurance companies statewide each signed up 10 percent or more enrollees: Empire, with 18 percent; Health Republic, 16 percent; Fidelis, 14 percent; Emblem, 12 percent; MetroPlus, 11 percent; and MVP, 10 percent. Two newcomers, Oscar and North Shore-LIJ's insurance company, enrolled 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

With AP