SANTA CRUZ >> Covered California released county-by-county enrollment data for the first time Wednesday, showing 15,071 people in Santa Cruz County obtained health insurance from the state exchange since sign-ups began Oct. 1.

Of that total, 86 percent were eligible for a subsidy to lower the cost, and 2,074 bought insurance without a subsidy.

That compares to 16,523 enrollees in Monterey County, 91 percent subsidized, and 2,121 in San Benito County, 93 percent subsidized.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel filed a request in December under the California Public Records Act seeking enrollment data for Santa Cruz County but was told the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act precluded Covered California from doing so.

The state exchange leaders divided California into 19 regions. Some of the regions consisted of single counties.

Santa Cruz County was placed in the Monterey Coast region with Monterey County and San Benito County. When Covered California announced monthly enrollments, those data were regional, covering the three counties.

In mid-February, the Sentinel made another Public Records Act request, based on the fact that the exchange had released enrollment data for a single county, Kern, without violating federal law.

At the time, Covered California's spokesman Roy Kennedy said he was "not privy to the reasoning" behind why numbers for specific counties would be available while others are not, but noted the Sentinel's Public Records Act request was "under review."

As of March 31, Anthem had garnered 62 percent of the 33,698 Covered California enrollees in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, Blue Shield, 30 percent, and Health Net, 8 percent.

Santa Cruz County residents could choose any of those three plans, but the exchange did not provide a breakdown by insurer or by level of coverage, which ranged from minimum to platinum.

Blue Shield was not available via Covered California in Monterey County so the 10,000 who chose Blue Shield live in Santa Cruz or San Benito counties.

For those who wanted to buy a Covered California plan and keep their doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the choice was between Blue Shield and Health Net because Anthem's agreement with PAMF covered only policies purchased in the private market. The Summit and Boulder Creek ZIP codes were not covered by Blue Shield, giving those residents fewer choices.

For those with a doctor in the Physicians Medical Group of Santa Cruz, Health Net was a good bet because the plan had an agreement with the independent practice association.

Dr. Larry de Ghetaldi, who heads Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz, said 10 new primary care physicians have been hired since January 2013, ramping up to see newly insured patients.

The Westside Santa Cruz office will open fully staffed in July three years ahead of plan, he said, and Watsonville, Aptos, the main clinic, and Scotts Valley are all adding providers.

Jan Wolf, member services director at Central California Alliance for Health, said growth in Medi-Cal membership in Santa Cruz County has grown from 41,471 to 49,022 with the new eligibility guidelines.

"We're always trying to add providers," she said, but noted there are no capacity issues at present and a new clinic, the Santa Cruz Community Health Center, opened May 23.