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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

April 8, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Missed health-insurance signup deadline? Here’s what to do

It’s “follow the rules” time for folks who missed the deadline to sign up for a private health plan through Washington’s Healthplanfinder but who still want insurance. If you couldn’t finish — or even start — an application, you’ll need to get a special dispensation from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange to move ahead. So keep reading, and we’ll tell…

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April 1, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Insurance enrollment spikes on final day; state softens stance on extensions

Procrastinators gave a giant bump to the number of health plans sold through Washington’s new exchange, with 8,000 people enrolling during the final day of sign ups. By the close of the Affordable Care Act’s first enrollment period on March 31, more than 146,000 residents bought insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder. Nationally, the White…

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0 Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, deadline, enrollment

March 31, 2014 at 6:22 PM

Healthplanfinder’s two brief outages may have been triggered by feds

So far, Washington state’s health exchange website — Washington Healthplanfinder — has held up very well under the increased activity as tonight’s deadline for signing up approaches. The website did experience two very brief outages, and there are indications that those outages may be related to troubles on the Federal Data Services Hub. According to Curt Kwak,…

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March 31, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Rush of health insurance sign ups in final hours

In the last days to sign up for health insurance, thousands of people around Washington flocked to enrollment events or logged on themselves to find coverage.

“Our clinics have been flooded all morning and our call center has been fielding calls this morning from people wanting to know what they should do to enroll,” said Elizabeth Winders, manager of Medicaid programs with HealthPoint, a nonprofit that operates multiple King County area health clinics.

“And the website went down for a while earlier,” Winder said by email on Monday. “It’s going to be a crazy day.”

According to preliminary numbers, approximately 140,000 people had purchased insurance plans through the state by the end of the weekend, said Michael Marchand spokesman for the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange. That’s a bump of about 9,000 people over four days.

Under the Affordable Care Act, March 31 is the last day for the uninsured to get coverage or face a penalty for going without health insurance.

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March 31, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Huge increases in health exchange queries

The customer-support call center of the Washington Healthplanfinder has seen a huge in crease in calls the past several days,” said Bethany Frye, spokeswoman for the exchange. Specifically, the call center received approximately 20,000 calls on Friday. By 1 p.m. today, deadline day for insurance-plan signups, the call center had already received 4,300 calls. “If people need help today…

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March 31, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Healthplanfinder site holding up on deadline day as visits surge

It’s D-Day for Washington state’s health insurance exchange, with the midnight deadline for signups only hours away. While there have been reports of short outages of the website, each time we called up the site it has been available, though pages do sometimes have small delays in loading. According to Bethany Frye, spokeswoman for the exchange, the…

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March 27, 2014 at 3:02 PM

Insurance sign-ups surge in final days

Ad promoting the state's health insurance exchange.

Ad promoting the state’s health insurance exchange.

In the last few days that people can buy health insurance for this year, the state is at last seeing a surge in sign ups.

So how fast are people scrambling to get coverage? In the past three days, nearly 6,000 people have bought insurance — approximately the same number of sign ups as were completed the first two weeks of March. About 131,000 people have purchased insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s insurance exchange.

State officials are still ramping up their advertising and outreach to get as many people as possible enrolled by the March 31 deadline.

“The need is to create a sense of urgency,” Michael Marchand, spokesman for the exchange, explained Thursday to the board of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which  oversees the marketplace.

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0 Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, deadline, enrollment

March 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Washington ranks high for getting lower-income residents insured

Washington is one of the top states for getting people who qualify for tax credits signed up for health insurance. Roughly one-third of the residents with incomes low enough to get a tax break have bought insurance through the state’s insurance exchange.

The number is significant because supporters of the Affordable Care Act are eager to reach people who need help paying their insurance premiums.

Washington residents will receive more than $285 million in tax credits to reduce the amount of their premiums, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation based on data ending March 1. This amount will increase, given that Americans can buy individual insurance plans until March 31 when open enrollment closes for this year.

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0 Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, tax credit

March 24, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Uninsured Americans not rushing to buy health coverage

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

As the enrollment deadline draws near, more than 125,000 people have purchased health insurance through Washington’s insurance exchange. But there hasn’t been the surge of new signups that supporters were hoping for, and a national poll casts some doubt that a major rush is still to come.

Only 40 percent of uninsured Americans surveyed in a new poll were aware of the March 31 deadline for purchasing individual insurance this year.

When reminded of the date and requirement that they get insurance or pay a penalty, half said they are not planning to get coverage, according to a survey being released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Four-in-10 uninsured Americans said they did plan to get insurance.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced an easy process for people to apply for extensions to the deadline if they were trying to buy insurance through federally-managed exchanges. Washington residents can also request extensions, but they have to meet more stringent requirements.

Washington’s insurance exchange, called Healthplanfinder, is nationally recognized as one of the more successful marketplaces. But a week before enrollment is set to close for the year, the exchange still had not met its January sales goal of 130,000 people.

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0 Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, health insurance

March 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Premera CEO Gubby Barlow stepping down; Jeff Roe takes post

H.R. Brereton “Gubby” Barlow, who has led Premera Blue Cross since 2000, is retiring, the company said Tuesday. His successor, Jeff Roe, has been president of Premera since Jan. 1, a post previously held by Barlow. In the early 2000s, Barlow was the lead figure in a bid to transform the nonprofit company to a for-profit entity,…

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0 Comments | Topics: Gubby Barlow, H.R. Brereton Barlow, Premera Blue Cross

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