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With Ohio's Enrollment Lagging, HHS Secretary Sebelius Stops in Cleveland - Again

Neighborhood Family Practice staff members sing and dance their support for the ACA.
Neighborhood Family Practice staff members sing and dance their support for the ACA.

More than 79,000 Ohioans have selected a health insurance plan on the Affordable Care Act's exchange since enrollment began in President Barack Obama's signature law.

That's about 10 percent of those who qualify. On her second trip to Cleveland in two months, Secretary Sebelius tried to emphasis the importance of signing up more.

"We've got some distance to go. Clearly there is time. Open enrollment on the private market side does end on the 31st of March..., " she told a crowd of supporters while speaking at the Neighbhorhood Family Practice.

Nationwide, many red states that have not supported the federal law - including Ohio - have been slow to get eligible people enrolled. And Sebelius confirmed Friday that politics has been a factor in the low numbers.

"We see in states where governors have fully embraced the Affordable care act and are promoting it throughout the state, there is a different dynamic..... Ohio has had some blockades and some issues about having people get the information in a timely fashion.

Analysts say there are 812,000 people in Ohio who qualify for a plan on the federally-run exchange. So far, less than 10 percent of those have signed up. In contrast, Michigan, which has partnered with the federal government, has enrolled nearly 145,000 or about 20 percent of those eligible.

Jean Polster, executive director of Neighborhood Family Practice, says enrollments have surged in recent weeks and she's hired extra staff to handle the influx.

"It was very slow in the fall, I think all the press around the web site... but over the past few weeks we've seen things really pick up and we're filling all of our appointment blocks," Polster says.

There are five enrollment events scheduled in the Greater Cleveland region this weekend through Wednesday.