The chief executive of private health insurance exchange eHealth says the online marketplace added 50 percent more customers in the last quarter of 2013 compared with 2012, a dramatic increase that he attributes to the Affordable Care Act.

Gary Lauer, eHealth’s CEO, also says that the percentage of those customers between the ages of 18 and 34 was well above the 25 percent rate cited by the Obama administration for young adult enrollments on the state and federal-run exchanges.

“The impact of the Affordable Care Act provisions was especially significant in the individual market,” Lauer said during a call with Wall Street analysts last week. According to Lauer, 40 percent of the 170,000 consumers who obtained insurance through the eHealth site from October through December were in the young adult category, “a highly sought-after demographic.” Lauer also noted that the start of the ACA’s enrollment period on October 1 “drove significant demand.”

Lauer speculates that is company may have been the beneficiary of the widespread frustration experienced by consumers who were unable to purchase policies through the federal government’s exchange last fall. Only 10 percent of those buying new policies had bought policies from eHealth in the past, he observes.

Analysts, however, were puzzled over how the private site – which can’t currently process applications for the premium subsidies available under the ACA – has been able to entice so many young people to purchase insurance. EHealth is approved to process subsidy-eligible applicants on its site, but hasn’t done so to date because of lingering technical issues with Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange site, although eHealth customers can still apply for a federal tax refund when they file their 2014 returns.

In response, Lauer suggests that eHealth attracts tech-savvy young people who prefer it over the government sites.

They may also be attracted to the private exchange because there are more options available, according to Brian Mast, vice president of communication for eHealth. For instance, Mast says, the private site offers more plans than Covered California, the public state exchange.

Lauer adds that eHealth expects to be able to process subsidy requests online during open enrollment for 2015.

This story originally appeared on Health Insurance Exchange

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