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U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about issues and complications with the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 30, 2013.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH) - RTX14TVS U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about issues and complications with the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH) - RTX14TVS  

Top insurer: 15-20 percent aren’t paying Obamacare premiums

One of the largest insurers serving Obamacare exchanges across the country reports that between 15 and 20 percent of its customers aren’t paying their premiums.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has members offering health plans on exchanges in almost every state. A spokesman estimated Wednesday that between 80 and 85 percent of its new customers are paying premiums, which is in line with analysts projections on how many will actually follow through with buying their insurance plans.

The numbers apply to policies that were supposed to take place by February 1 or earlier. It’s not clear whether those that rushed to sign up during the Obama administration’s ad-binge in March will be as likely to purchase their plans as those who signed up earlier — although arguably, those who waited until the last minute to select plans will typically need health coverage less urgently and may not be as likely to follow through and buy their insurance policy.

The Blues’ quick release of an estimate gives the Obama administration little time to celebrate reaching its minimum threshold of 7 million selected plans before admitting that not as many Americans are following through with their applications.

If Blue Cross Blue Shield’s numbers hold true across the exchange population in total, those receiving insurance due to Obamacare will fall to between 5.6 million to 6 million.

The White House has declared Obamacare a success this week with its announcement that just over 7 million Americans selected plans on HealthCare.gov. While Americans wait to hear exactly how many paid for their plans, the other lingering question is the health of each state’s pool of applicants and whether the young and the healthy will make up a large enough chunk to prevent the cost of coverage to rise dramatically.

While the health care exchanges should have closed for business Monday, several states have various extensions, and HealthCare.gov states will be allowed to sign up until a unspecified date in mid-April. (RELATED: Three-fourths think uneven Obamacare extensions unfair)

Early reports suggest that the bulk of the 7 million who have selected plans were previously uninsured. Those who didn’t have coverage prior to signing up on the exchanges are vastly less likely to end up paying their first premiums, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.

Two-thirds of exchange sign-ups previously had insurance plans, and that close to 86 percent of that group is paying their premiums, comparable to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s estimates. But when it comes to those that didn’t have prior coverage, just 53 percent have been purchasing their coverage, analysts found.

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