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HealthCare Checkup

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

January 22, 2015 at 5:18 PM

Health-exchange problems easing, but nagging, board told

Staff of the Washington Health Benefits Exchange, which manages the state’s Wahealthplanfinder health-insurance exchange, told its board today that it had significantly improved the processing of account invoices and payments to insurance carriers.

Richard Onizuka, CEO of the exchange told board members that of the accounts processed in December, those with carrier-payment problems were down to 1.7 percent, and those with invoicing problems were 1.5 percent. “We are seeing some improvement,” Onizuka said. “It still means that too many people are being affected.”

“It seems enormously high to me,” new board member Mark Stensager said. “And it’s a trend that has gone on for a long period of time. I know it’s complicated and I know everybody’s working hard. But this is serious. So how to get it fixed? How quickly can it get fixed?”

Board member Teresa Mosqueda noted that the actual error rate is likely higher, since it reflects only the errors they have caught and not those not yet noticed by consumers. “There’s the possibility that people sitting at home who do not know that they have an erroneous file and they could access a doctor and they are turned away,” she said.

Exchange staff also reported that re-enrollments to date were lagging behind expectations. According to Pam MacEwan, chief of staff, as of Dec. 31, 79,000 of approximately 130,000 account holders had re-enrolled for 2015. “The numbers continued to bump up but it is not at our expectation,” she said.

MacEwan did note that some consumers might be taking longer to re-enroll because there are indications that more consumers than expected are switching to other qualified health plans. Also, the holidays might have caused some consumers to put off enrolling. Still, she noted, most other states “seem to be clicking along fine with enrollments. Right now we need to get these folks enrolled.”

Exchange staff also said that some consumers may have been confused by messages that went out from carriers mistakenly indicating that if consumers wanted to keep their current account they didn’t need to take any action.

That’s not true. Consumers need to contact the exchange to renew or change plans. The deadline for enrolling for coverage beginning in March is Feb. 15 at 10 p.m.

Comments | Topics: Washington Healthplanfinder

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