More than 270,000 Washington residents have secured health care coverage through the state’s new health insurance exchange, officials announced Tuesday.
From Oct. 1 to Jan. 9, some 73,098 residents bought insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, according to new data. In addition, nearly 200,000 of the enrollees are new participants in the Medicaid program, which locally goes by the name Washington Apple Health. An additional 183,141 former Medicaid recipients have renewed their coverage.
Approximately three-quarters of those enrolling through the exchange qualified for a federal tax break to reduce the cost of their coverage, according to data through the end of the year. The subsidies are available to people earning up to 400 percent of the U.S. poverty line. That comes to approximately $45,000 for an individual.
Residents have until March 31 to enroll in an insurance plan that will provide coverage this year. Medicaid — a federal program providing free health care — offers enrollment year round.
Because of technical problems with Healthplanfinder, exchange officials are granting retroactive insurance coverage to people who initiated the enrollment process by Dec. 23 but were unable to complete it. These folks have until Jan. 15 to make their first insurance payment, and then their enrollment will be retroactive to Jan. 1., meaning that any medical bills accumulated in the first two weeks of January will be covered by the terms of their insurance plan.
Improving the exchange website and the toll-free call center continues to be a big focus for officials with Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Healthplanfinder. The site launched Oct. 1.
“Being able to improve and enhance the customer experience is what keeps us up at night,” said the exchange’s chief executive officer, Richard Onizuka, at a health-care conference last week. “There are still error codes and complications.”
And there are still enrollment goals to meet. The state aimed to sign up 130,000 people in exchange insurance plans by Jan. 1, but reached only 71,205 by that point. There are still more than 76,000 people who have started but not completed the enrollment process, though it’s unclear how many are serious applicants.
The state has met its statewide Medicaid goals, though some counties have exceeded their enrollment targets while other lag behind.
Last week the state released this analysis showing Medicaid enrollment by county.