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HealthCare Checkup

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

November 16, 2014 at 7:38 PM

Washington Healthplanfinder back up after on-and-off service

UPDATE, Monday, 6:30 a.m. | The Washington Healthplanfinder site was down Sunday night to Monday morning while the Department of Social and Health Services did weekly maintenance to their eligibility service, said Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for the Washington Healthplanfinder. “This was not any type of a glitch or outage,” Frey said.


Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s health-insurance exchange website, reopened for business at 8 a.m. Sunday after recovering from a glitch that caused officials to shut down the system about 22 hours earlier on Saturday morning.

The system went on to have a smoother day Sunday, drawing about 3,300 site visitors by 4 p.m., according to Bethany Frey, a spokeswoman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Healthplanfinder.

The shutdown came on the first day that consumers could enroll on Healthplanfinder to purchase insurance plans for 2015. Open enrollment continues through Feb. 15.

After opening at 8 a.m. Saturday, quality-control monitors in the Healthfinder system noticed that consumers’ tax credits were being computed incorrectly. Rather than continue service and fix the errors in consumer accounts later, officials decided to bring the site down and fix it.

The tax-credit calculations are important in helping users determine how much a health plan will cost them. Based on an applicant’s income level, the credits go toward making premium payments more affordable for those who qualify.

In a statement Sunday morning, the exchange said the miscalculation affected fewer than 800 customers, including nearly 150 customers who scheduled payments based on that information. The exchange will be contacting those customers individually to notify them of the corrected figures.

Michael Marchand, communications director of the exchange, said the inaccurate calculations involved links with the state Department of Social and Health Services’ database, which confirms eligibility on Healthplanfinder. The DSHS eligibility system was using 2014 rather than 2015 federal poverty level tables to calculate the credits. “The system wasn’t set up to point to the 2015 pivot table until 2015 because we’re still in calendar year 2014,” Marchand said.

Requests for comment from DSHS have not been returned.

Additionally, in the course of fixing the problem, the technical staff discovered an error in the Healthplanfinder tax credit formula. Frey said this error has also been fixed.

Site users also face outages from scheduled maintenance shutdowns. In fact, the exchange had scheduled maintenance on Saturday and Sunday night of the first weekend of open enrollment.

Marchand, said nearly all of the scheduled maintenance outages are imposed by other state or federal agencies. He noted that there are many agencies involved in the processing of eligibility information —- from the IRS to the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs — and if one of their systems is down for maintenance, the entire system is on hold.

“Could the IRS do work when Social Security is doing work?” he said. “It would just make life easier to have one downtime.”

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