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HealthCare Checkup

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

December 19, 2013 at 3:47 PM

Insurance exchange eliminates backlog of paper applications

After weeks of intense effort, the state’s health-insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, has caught up on the entire backlog of paper applications that residents have submitted for health-care coverage in 2014.

Healthplanfinder has received more than 20,000 paper applications to date.

By Wednesday, all of those applications had been processed, said Michael Marchand, communications director for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs Healthplanfinder.

“Anyone who sent a paper application into our call center is in the system,” he said.

A week ago, the exchange’s operations director, Beth Walter, reported to the exchange board that the backlog in paper applications had been reduced to about 5,000.

The remaining backlog was eliminated this week.

But that does not mean that everyone who has sent in a paper application is enrolled in coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014.

In some cases, the customer-support staff ran into error codes while trying to enter an applicant’s information into Healthplanfinder – just as consumers, brokers and in-person assisters also continue to run into error codes when they try to submit applications online.

“What we’ve done is worked the applications as far as we could until there’s an error code, because sometimes the error code is not something we can fix,” Marchand said. “But anyone who’s sent something in is in the system.”

The exchange has notified everyone who submitted a paper application that their application has been entered into the system, Marchand said. The correspondence was sent by email or letter, depending on the consumer’s preference.

The notification indicates whether the recipient needs to submit additional data in order for the application to go through, Marchand said. “So it’s going to be super-important for people who receive those to go to  their account, get in and finish the application process.”

Washington residents have more time than they did before to complete their enrollment in coverage that will start at the beginning of the year.

The exchange announced Wednesday that it has extended the enrollment deadline from Dec. 23 to Jan. 15. The extension only applies to people who have started the application process by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 23 – which is next Monday – and have run into error codes that prevent them from completing enrollment by then.

Consumers have until March 31 to enroll in a health plan offered on Healthplanfinder and avoid the federal tax penalty for being uninsured in 2014.

Comments | Topics: backlog, Michael Marchand, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

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