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HealthCare Checkup

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

Topic: Apple Health

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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

March 24, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Uninsured Americans not rushing to buy health coverage

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Data through March 23. Source: Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

As the enrollment deadline draws near, more than 125,000 people have purchased health insurance through Washington’s insurance exchange. But there hasn’t been the surge of new signups that supporters were hoping for, and a national poll casts some doubt that a major rush is still to come.

Only 40 percent of uninsured Americans surveyed in a new poll were aware of the March 31 deadline for purchasing individual insurance this year.

When reminded of the date and requirement that they get insurance or pay a penalty, half said they are not planning to get coverage, according to a survey being released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Four-in-10 uninsured Americans said they did plan to get insurance.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced an easy process for people to apply for extensions to the deadline if they were trying to buy insurance through federally-managed exchanges. Washington residents can also request extensions, but they have to meet more stringent requirements.

Washington’s insurance exchange, called Healthplanfinder, is nationally recognized as one of the more successful marketplaces. But a week before enrollment is set to close for the year, the exchange still had not met its January sales goal of 130,000 people.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, health insurance

February 4, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Medicaid enrollment soars statewide

Medicaid enrollment in Washington state has grown so high so fast that the state already has met its April goal for new participants under Medicaid expansion. By Jan. 30, more than 172,700 newly-eligible adults had signed up for the free health insurance. The state was aiming for 136,000 enrollees by the start of April. While the success…


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, health insurance

January 28, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Obamacare enrollment continues to climb in Washington state

Source: Data from Washington Healthplanfinder and Washington Health Care Authority, through Jan. 23.

Source: Data from Washington Healthplanfinder and Washington Health Care Authority, through Jan. 23.

More than 320,000 people have signed up for insurance or newly enrolled in Medicaid through Washington’s online health insurance exchange.

Of that number, more than 86,000 are now covered by private insurance purchased through the exchange, according to state data ending Jan. 23. The rest are new participants in Medicaid.

Most of the enrollees who are signed up for private insurance will receive tax breaks to help pay for their insurance premiums. Many are also eligible for subsidies that reduce their out-of-pocket costs for medical bills.

The rate of enrollment was initially slow after the exchange launched Oct. 1. As was the case for websites around the nation, the state’s online exchange — Washington Healthplanfinder — was plagued with technical problems in the first few weeks of operation.

In December, the number of people purchasing plans spiked as the site improved and as people scrambled to get insurance coverage that began the first of the year.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Apple Health, health insurance

January 9, 2014 at 12:58 PM

What you need to know about health-care deadlines

Photo by Protocol Photography, from Flickr's The Commons.

Photo by Protocol Photography, from Flickr’s The Commons.

This season the holidays just kept on giving. Seemingly each day last month, our email in boxes at HealthCare Checkup were stuffed with yet another surprise in the form of new enrollment deadlines and changed rules for getting health insurance. While other folks were slugging down eggnog and making merry, we were trying to unwrap and assemble all the shiny new changes.

Here’s what you might have missed:


Folks with canceled plans

Remember all the people upset that they got letters informing them that their health-insurance plans were being discontinued? Just before Christmas, the Obama administration announced new rules that allow anyone whose plan was canceled to either buy so-called “catastrophic” plans or go uninsured but without having to pay the penalty that kicks in at the end of March.

The change potentially affects more than 227,000 Washington residents whose individual insurance plans were scuttled this fall because they  didn’t comply with rules in the Affordable Care Act.

The kicker is that there is only one catastrophic plan for sale through most of the state, and there are actually cheaper, non-catastrophic plans available, so there’s not a huge financial benefit to this announcement. The biggest change is the provision saying these people won’t be penalized for not having insurance in 2014. But again, these are people who already had insurance, so presumably they liked being covered.

Folks who had trouble enrolling

While the state’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, had a better track record than most marketplaces around the nation, the site for purchasing subsidized coverage had serious challenges. Whether it was the mistakes in calculating how much of a subsidy someone qualified for, or the inability to get through to the toll free help line, many people were stymied in their efforts to get insurance through the exchange.

So last month the state bumped back some enrollment and payment deadlines. If you started — but even if you did not complete — the online enrollment process by Dec. 23, you could still have health insurance starting Jan. 1. To get that coverage, you do need to make your first insurance premium payment by Jan. 15, then the coverage is retroactive.


Comments | Topics: Apple Health, Healthplanfinder, Medicaid

December 20, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Healthplanfinder’s last-minute tips and updates

At Washington Healthplanfinder, the online exchange marketplace now processing applications for health insurance and tax credits, a last-minute surge means customer-support staffers will be working through the weekend. Over the past week, 17,000 people have enrolled, bringing the total to more than 50,000 individuals who have selected and bought a private health plan, Healthplanfinder officials said. The looming deadline for…


Comments | Topics: Apple Health, health insurance, Medicaid

October 10, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Dental care for adults on Medicaid to restart Jan. 1

Dental care for adults on Medicaid, cut during the state’s fiscal crisis, will be restored as of Jan. 1, according to the state’s Health Care Authority. Adults enrolling in Apple Health/Medicaid under the new, higher-income eligibility rules that go into effect Jan. 1 as part of the Affordable Care Act will qualify for care as well…


Comments | Topics: Apple Health, dental care, Medicaid