Medicaid enrollment in Washington state has grown so high so fast that the state already has met its April goal for new participants under Medicaid expansion.
By Jan. 30, more than 172,700 newly-eligible adults had signed up for the free health insurance. The state was aiming for 136,000 enrollees by the start of April.
While the success of Medicaid has sent the state racing toward its goal of shrinking the ranks of the uninsured, enrollment in the state’s private insurance marketplace is moving more slowly. Data released Tuesday shows there are more than 88,000 paid enrollees in the insurance exchange. The program still has not met the Jan. 1 goal of 130,000 enrollees.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the state created the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange where residents can sign up for insurance plans with — depending on their income — discounted premiums, or they can enroll in Medicaid, which is locally called Apple Health.
In Washington, nearly 1 million people were believed to be uninsured before the launch of the Healthplanfinder exchange on Oct. 1, 2013.
Because of how the data is tracked, no one knows what fraction of people buying insurance through Healthplanfinder were previously uninsured. In addition to the exchange, residents can buy insurance through brokers or directly from insurance companies. However, the exchange is the only place where people can get tax credits for their insurance premiums based on their income level. Close to half of the state’s uninsured residents were expected to qualify for subsidies before the exchange launched.
Mike Kreidler, the state’s insurance commissioner, has asked all of the insurers to send him their enrollment data in an effort to figure out how many people are getting coverage, and whether they were previously uninsured.
In addition to the newly eligible Medicaid participants, the push to expand coverage has resulted in the enrollment of more than 84,000 adults and children who previously were eligible for Medicaid and related programs for low-income residents, but had not signed up.
That means participation in Medicaid and similar programs has grown 20 percent since October, from 1.2 million enrollees to close to 1.5 million.
The expansion of Medicaid stretches statewide. Only six counties are less than 80 percent of the way toward meeting their newly eligible enrollment goals (in red), and an additional six are between 80 and 100 percent toward reaching their goals (bluish-gray), according to data from the Washington Health Care Authority.