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HealthCare Checkup

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

February 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

New insurance enrollment data shows slow growth

The number of people signing up for health insurance through the state is growing at a modest pace, while enrollment of new Medicaid recipients surges ahead.

Nearly 91,000 residents have purchased health insurance from the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange. Each week enrollment has ticked up about 3 percent, following a spike in sign ups during the first few weeks of December.

Thanks to the expansion of who is eligible for Medicaid, the number of new participants in the free health-care program has increased to nearly 185,000, based on enrollment data ending Feb. 6.

Overall, nearly 650,000 people have enrolled in insurance plans or Medicaid through Washington Healthplanfinder. But it’s not always easy. People who call the state’s free help line spend on average 37 minutes trying to get the answers they need. Others say they have struggled to fix mistakes in their enrollment information, including the date their insurance is supposed to start.

Source: Enrollment data from Washington Healthplanfinder.

Source: Enrollment data from Washington Healthplanfinder.

One reason the exchange is slow to add new recruits could be due to public understanding of the insurance marketplace, which was created under the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly half of the uninsured Americans questioned in a recent poll were unaware that Obamacare offered financial help to low-income people buying insurance. More than half didn’t realize that insurance companies could no longer deny coverage based on someone’s health.

And almost 4 of 10 uninsured people said they weren’t even aware of the insurance exchanges, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation of 1,506 adults. Those surveyed were reached by land-line and cell phones from Jan. 14 through 21.

Half of people who are uninsured say they still plan to get insurance, according to the poll, while 40 percent said they would not. The remaining people didn’t know or answer the question.

Americans have until March 31 to buy insurance without being penalized. Those who qualify for Medicaid, which is called Apple Health in Washington, can sign up at any time.

Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Medicaid

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