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Good news for Obamacare: more young people are signing up

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About 8.3 million people have signed up for health coverage through's 2016 open enrollment period, the Obama administration announced Tuesday. That beats last year's total of 6.4 million people who had signed up at the same point in time.

That's a significant jump, and one that suggests that the growing penalty for not carrying insurance (the so-called "individual mandate") is successfully encouraging more people to obtain coverage.

But the most important numbers isn't necessarily that topline figure. Instead, it's a more granular look at who is signing up for insurance. There, you see the Obamacare population is increasingly made up of young enrollees who likely have lower health-care costs. This is especially good news after the wave of big premium spikes that this year's shoppers faced. It suggests that the higher price tags didn't scare off insurers'  most-desired customers: young people who tend to have fewer medical needs.

Young people make up a larger chunk of Obamacare's new enrollees netted 2.1 million enrollees under 35, who make up 35 percent of overall enrollment. Last year, there were 1.1 million enrollees in that category, comprising only 33 percent of the group at the time.

This edges the Obama administration closer to its initial goal of having an enrollment pool that's 38 percent below this age threshold.

(Health and Human Services)

There was good news about uninsured people who came to Obamacare as new enrollees, too: 41 percent of them (980,000 people) were under 35. Last year, only 38 percent of new enrollees were that young.

Obamacare premiums went up a lot faster for 2016 coverage (the year this current open enrollment covers) than they did for 2015. That created some worry that young people might not sign up in high numbers. Because younger people tend to have fewer medical needs, they tend to be more price sensitive and willing to forgo coverage in the face of a premium spike.

If these charts moved in the opposite direction — if fewer young people were signing up for Obamacare — that would definitely be a bad sign for the law. It would suggest the possible beginning of a "death spiral": when healthy people exit the market, leaving sicker enrollees behind, and driving prices ever higher.

These stats don't show a massive increase in young adult enrollment, by any means. But they're still important because they at least help show that the healthiest enrollment group isn't fleeing Obamacare — and a few more of their ranks are even signing up.

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