Follow us:

HealthCare Checkup

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

Author archives

You are currently viewing all posts written by Lisa Stiffler.

February 9, 2015 at 4:31 PM

Tax forms mean new troubles for health-care exchange

Washington’s health insurance exchange last week began sending out federal tax forms, and that has a created a new set of challenges to sort out.

The exchange has mailed documents called 1095-A forms to most of  its 130,000 customer accounts, and the form is also supposed to be available through customers’ online accounts. However, some customers are finding that they’re unable to view the forms through Washington Healthplanfinder and exchange officials say they’re working with their contractor, Deloitte, to fix the situation.

An additional 5,000 tax forms have not been mailed because of problems with the information, including the need for data from the IRS.



January 20, 2015 at 7:32 PM

Upcoming Obamacare enrollment events in Washington

Updated Washington Healthplanfinder home page.

Updated Washington Healthplanfinder home page.

It’s not too late to get health insurance for 2015, and the state is hosting events this weekend at malls and community colleges to help people get coverage.

Most all Americans must have insurance or be enrolled in a program such as Medicare or Medicaid — or face a fine for being uninsured.

People who are not covered by employer-provided insurance or a government program can buy individual insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange or from a broker or insurance company.

Only plans sold through Healthplanfinder are eligible for federal tax breaks to reduce the cost of the monthly premium. The state-run marketplace has trained navigators to help people maneuver the website and sign up.

“Washingtonians should take advantage of the expert help available if they need assistance enrolling in a health plan,” said Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer with the exchange.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Washington Healthplanfinder

January 9, 2015 at 8:35 AM

Seahawks Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman push Obamacare signups

The push to get more Washington residents health insurance scored big time with a new public service announcement featuring Seahawks star players Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman. The PSA being released Friday is a no-frills, 30-second production in which Wilson and Sherman make the case for getting health insurance and urge people to act…


Comments | More in General News | Topics: Richard Sherman, russell Wilson, Seahawks

January 8, 2015 at 6:46 PM

With 107,000 enrollees, Washington is halfway to insurance sign-up goal

Washington is halfway to its goal for insurance signups through the state’s Washington Healthplanfinder exchange, according to numbers released Thursday.

But with more than 107,000 people buying health insurance from Healthplanfinder through the end of December, the exchange still hasn’t caught up to the number of people enrolled before the signups for the current enrollment period began in mid-November.

That raises the pressure to reach the state’s target of 215,000 customers in the six weeks left until the Feb. 15 close of enrollment for this year.

It’s “an aggressive target,” said Bethany Frey, spokeswoman for Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the online insurance marketplace.

So far only 80,000 of the 140,000 former customers that enrolled in the first enrollment have renewed their plans through the state, according to officials. Their goal is for 130,000 of their past customers to renew their coverage, plus they hope to sign up 85,000 new enrollees. People needed to renew or sign up by late December to ensure there would be no gap in their coverage beginning Jan. 1.

“We would like that [renewal] number to be higher, to be as close to 100 percent as possible,” Frey said. “It’s hard to know why they’re not coming back, but every customer has gotten letters or emails” reminding them to re-enroll.

Most of the customers who haven’t returned have unpaid balances on their insurance for 2014, Frey said. But legally people can still sign up for a plan for next year, even if they still owe on past coverage.

Insurance enrollment numbers are more favorable elsewhere in the country during this second round of signups under the Affordable Care Act.

Roughly 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance or were automatically renewed for coverage by late December, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s an increase of  approximately 400,000 people compared with how many were enrolled before the new sign-up period started. The renewal process through the federal exchange was more passive for customers, Frey said, which could result in higher numbers for states using that exchange. 


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

December 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

For health insurance starting Jan. 1, enroll by 5 p.m. today

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…


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

December 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

State wins $65 million grant for health-care effort

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that Washington state has been awarded a $65 million federal grant to fund an effort to deliver better health care more efficiently.

The four-year grant will help implement the state’s Health Care Innovation Plan beginning in February, and the effort — dubbed Healthier Washington — will be led by the state’s Health Care Authority (HCA), which manages the Medicaid program. Washington is one of 11 states that will share $622 million granted by the U.S. government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to implement a health-care innovation program.

The project began with a $1 million State Innovation Model grant that assembled a group of stakeholders, including representatives from state and local government, public health, delivery systems, business, health plans, consumer groups, labor, tribal entities, providers and community organizations. That effort resulted in the plan to reform health care, which has been endorsed by a who’s who list of Washington’s health-care leaders.

“I want every family to have access to affordable, effective health care, a healthy environment and an opportunity to learn so they and their kids thrive,” Inslee said in a statement.


Comments | Topics: All-Payer Claims Database, health insurance, mental health

December 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

State insurance exchange working well for Medicaid

Entry point for enrolling in Apple Health.

Entry point for enrolling in Apple Health.

Washington’s exchange website — the one that has struggled with glitches in its sales of insurance plans — is smoothly managing its Medicaid accounts. Since October, the exchange has been automatically renewing Medicaid enrollees with no significant problems. In December alone, some 150,000 Medicaid participants automatically re-enrolled in the program.

Approximately 1.6 million state residents are in Medicaid, which is locally called Apple Health. Because people can sign up for federal program at anytime, they come up for renewal throughout the year.

“Making the renewal process for Washington Apple Health clients as seamless as possible is a top priority for us, and we are pleased that is happening so that people can continue accessing the care they need,” said MaryAnne Lindeblad, state Medicaid director at the Health Care Authority, in an email.

The exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, is the entry point for people enrolling in Medicaid as well as those shopping for insurance as individuals or small businesses. The  website launched in October 2013.

Since the launch, 480,000 new participants have signed up for Medicaid. That includes people who were previously eligible for the free health-care program but had not enrolled, as well as people who are newly eligible to participate in Medicaid. Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Washington is one of 27 states that elected to expand who qualifies for Medicaid in order to bring the program to more low-income people.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, Medicaid

December 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM

State is one-quarter of way toward Obamacare enrollment goals

Close to 56,000 people have bought health insurance or renewed their coverage through the state’s online exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. The state is slightly more than one-quarter of the way toward its goal of enrolling 215,000 people by mid-February.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about where we are,” said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the exchange.

In this second round of insurance enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, roughly 10,000 of the people signing up are new customers to the exchange. The state hopes to bring that number up to 85,000 by the close of open enrollment on Feb. 15. The other 46,000 are renewing customers.

Washington residents who want to make sure they have coverage on Jan. 1 must either sign up or renew their plan, plus make their first monthly premium payment, by Dec. 23.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, Washington Health Benefit Exchange

Next Page »