Washington consumers who want health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1 must renew or sign up and make their first payment by 5 p.m. today.
So far only half of the 130,000 customers who currently have health insurance purchased through the state’s online exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, have taken steps to renew their plans for 2015.
Most of those who have not renewed have an unpaid balance for 2014 coverage, but federal law allows them to come back and renew for next year.
“A previously unpaid balance for 2014 coverage is not a barrier to enrollment in 2015,” said Richard Onizuka, chief executive of the exchange, in a statement. “The exchange has proactively communicated with these customers via letters and phone calls to come back to avoid a potential gap in their health insurance in the month of January.”
Onizuka reassured customers that if they miss today’s deadline because of problems with the website or other technical issues, they will still be able to get coverage starting Jan. 1. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has called for an extension of the enrollment deadline due to the numerous technical glitches and errors that have hampered signups and renewals, but the exchange said there won’t be a formal extension.
Details about the special enrollment process for customers stuck in the system will be released later today.
By the second week of December, close to 56,000 people had bought health insurance or renewed their coverage through Healthplanfinder. The exchange has not released updated numbers, but officials reported a surge in signups as the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage approaches. Close to 7,000 customers bought a plan through the exchange from Friday to Sunday alone.
People who do not have insurance through an employer or government program such as Medicare or Medicaid can buy individual insurance for themselves and their families until Feb. 15. The state’s goal is to enroll 215,000 people through Healthplanfinder by that date. People seeking insurance can also buy plans directly from insurance companies or through brokers. Plan bought outside of the exchange, however, are not eligible to tax benefits that can lower the cost of coverage and medical bills.
Customers who need help can call the toll-free customer support line at 1-855-923-4633. They can also find an insurance broker or a navigator specially trained to maneuver the sign-up process through the links at the bottom of the exchange’s homepage.