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HealthCare Checkup

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

Topic: Medicaid

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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.


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

March 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM

State waiting for insurance enrollment bump

Ad promoting Washington's health insurance exchange.

Ad promoting Washington’s health insurance exchange.

Many uninsured residents appear to be waiting until the last moment to enroll through Washington’s health insurance exchange. More than 112,000 people have purchased insurance through the state marketplace, but by the middle of the month, the state still hadn’t seen an uptick in the rate of enrollment.

Uninsured Americans have until March 31 to buy health insurance, or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

“Like with filing taxes or returning a movie, people wait until the last minute,” said Bethany Frey, a spokeswoman for the state’s exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder. “We do expect to still have some kind of a bump as we get closer to the deadline.”


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

March 12, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Washington insurance sales beat most other states

New Medicaid enrollments are coming in faster than people buying insurance coverage through Washington's Healthplanfinder. Data is through March 6.

New Medicaid enrollments are coming in faster than people buying insurance coverage through Washington’s Healthplanfinder. Data are through March 6.

Nearly 800,000 people have used Washington’s insurance exchange to purchase health insurance or enroll in Medicaid.

More than 109,000 residents have bought coverage through Healthplanfinder, while nearly 223,000 adults who now qualify for Medicaid under the recent expansion signed up for free medical care. The remaining nearly half a million enrollees include people renewing their existing Medicaid coverage and those who were previously eligible but had not signed up.

While the state hasn’t reached its sales targets for the exchange, Washington remains a national leader for getting people insured under the Affordable Care Act. A nationwide analysis finds that more than 21 percent of potential exchange enrollees have purchased plans through Healthplanfinder. Nationally, 15 percent of likely consumers have enrolled, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Only five states are beating Washington’s enrollment rate: Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California and Idaho.


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

February 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

New insurance enrollment data shows slow growth

The number of people signing up for health insurance through the state is growing at a modest pace, while enrollment of new Medicaid recipients surges ahead.

Nearly 91,000 residents have purchased health insurance from the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange. Each week enrollment has ticked up about 3 percent, following a spike in sign ups during the first few weeks of December.

Thanks to the expansion of who is eligible for Medicaid, the number of new participants in the free health-care program has increased to nearly 185,000, based on enrollment data ending Feb. 6.

Overall, nearly 650,000 people have enrolled in insurance plans or Medicaid through Washington Healthplanfinder. But it’s not always easy. People who call the state’s free help line spend on average 37 minutes trying to get the answers they need. Others say they have struggled to fix mistakes in their enrollment information, including the date their insurance is supposed to start.


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

January 16, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Health care’s drop-dead date: March 31

If your senses are getting numbed by Obamacare’s endless deadline drumbeat, let us direct your attention to arguably the most important date of all: March 31, 2014.

March 31 is important not only because it’s the deadline for getting coverage in order to avoid penalties for being uninsured. It’s also the end of this round of open enrollment, meaning it’s your last chance this year for getting insurance coverage as an individual (though of course there are exceptions that will allow you to get individual coverage later in the year, exceptions such as getting a divorce or losing a job that had benefits).

But just as you don’t have to wait for April 15 to file your income taxes, you likewise don’t have to delay signing up health insurance until March 31. Anytime between now and then you can enroll through the state insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, where you might qualify for subsidized coverage, or you can buy insurance outside of the exchange through brokers or directly from insurance companies.

If you sign up through Healthplanfinder before the end of March, here’s when your coverage will start (deadlines can vary for plans bought outside of the exchange — check with your insurance company):

  • Enroll and pay by Jan. 23, your coverage starts Feb. 1
  • Enroll and pay by Feb. 23, your coverage starts March 1
  • Enroll and pay by March 23, your coverage starts April 1
  • Enroll and pay by March 31, your coverage starts May 1

Insurance options

With all of the emphasis on the exchanges, don’t get confused by the fact that individual insurance isn’t the only game in town. You don’t have to buy insurance through the exchange to avoid a penalty — you just need to be insured.


0 Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, deadline, Medicaid

January 14, 2014 at 6:04 PM

270,000 residents insured through state exchange

Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Washington Healthplanfinder.

Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Washington Healthplanfinder.

More than 270,000 Washington residents have secured health care coverage through the state’s new health insurance exchange, officials announced Tuesday.

From Oct. 1 to Jan. 9, some 73,098 residents bought insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, according to new data. In addition, nearly 200,000 of the enrollees are new participants in the Medicaid program, which locally goes by the name Washington Apple Health. An additional 183,141 former Medicaid recipients have renewed their coverage.

Approximately three-quarters of those enrolling through the exchange qualified for a federal tax break to reduce the cost of their coverage, according to data through the end of the year. The subsidies are available to people earning up to 400 percent of the U.S. poverty line. That comes to approximately $45,000 for an individual.

Residents have until March 31 to enroll in an insurance plan that will provide coverage this year. Medicaid — a federal program providing free health care — offers enrollment year round.


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

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.


0 Comments | Topics: Apple Health, Healthplanfinder, Medicaid

December 31, 2013 at 6:37 PM

State files to change Medicaid policy to recover only long-term care costs

Washington’s Health Care Authority, as promised, has filed an emergency rule to amend Medicaid’s estate recovery policy. Current policy allows Medicaid to recover all medical costs from a client’s estate after death, which caused some consternation among those signing up for health insurance through the state’s expanded Medicaid program. The change means that Medicaid can…


0 Comments | Topics: estate recovery, Health Care Authority, Medicaid

December 23, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Healthplanfinder signup deadline is still midnight Monday

The Obama administration’s deadline extension for health-insurance signups does not apply to Washington residents seeking insurance coverage by Jan. 1 on Washington Healthplanfinder, the online exchange marketplace. The deadline for Washington residents is still 11:59 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, Washington Health Benefit Exchange officials said Monday. Washington residents who start applications in Healthplanfinder by 11:59 p.m. Monday…


0 Comments | Topics: deadline, exchange, health insurance

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…


0 Comments | Topics: Apple Health, health insurance, Medicaid

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