Topic: Washington Health Benefit Exchange
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December 3, 2013 at 6:36 PM
More than 175,000 Washington residents have signed up for health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online insurance marketplace, according to the latest enrollment figures released Tuesday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
The vast majority of enrollees qualified for the state’s Medicaid program, Apple Health, which is expanding eligibility in 2014 to include adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $16,000 for an individual.
A total of 176,468 residents enrolled in coverage through Healthplanfinder in October and November, the first two months of open enrollment for coverage in 2014.
That figure includes 18,131 residents who bought private health-insurance policies, known as “qualified health plans.” More than 91,000 are newly eligible for Medicaid because of expanded eligibility that takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. More than 66,000 enrollees qualify for Medicaid under the current guidelines and will receive immediate coverage.
Officials project that about 130,000 residents will purchase qualified health plans by Jan. 1, 2014, and that 280,000 will enroll by Jan. 1, 2015.
The latest enrollment numbers are still well short of that goal. But in addition to the more than 18,000 residents who have purchased qualified health plans, more than 43,000 have completed applications. The only remaining step for that group is submitting payment, which is due by Dec. 23 for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2014.
In addition, more than 54,000 residents have started applications that the Exchange describes as “in-process.”
Some residents have been prevented from completing their applications because of problems with the website.
Those problems continued Tuesday, when the exchange took the Healthplanfinder website down most of the day to address problems reported by users.
Exchange spokeswoman Bethany Frey said late Tuesday that the IT staff put the site into maintenance mode to address the slow loading times some users were encountering both Monday and Tuesday.
Applicants frustrated with the website have deluged the customer support center for weeks, but have also run into problems getting their calls answered.
November 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM
Many more older adults than younger ones have rushed to sign up for health plans through the state’s online insurance exchange, early enrollment figures show.
It is one of the key findings in a report released Friday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the exchange, known as Washington Healthplanfinder. The report contains the first demographic breakdown of early enrollment figures for the “qualified health plans” sold through the exchange and for Medicaid, which is expanding eligibility in 2014.
Among the 6,351 people who bought qualified health plans during the first month of open enrollment, nearly 38 percent are 55 and over. Another 20 percent are ages of 45 and 54.
A little more than 5 percent of enrollees are between ages 18 and 25, and nearly 18 percent are 26 to 34.
Another 19 percent of enrollees are in the 35-to-44 age group.
These figures show that in Washington, as in other states, more older adults than younger ones have moved quickly to sign up for coverage in private plans sold through the exchange.
Medicaid enrollment figures tell a very different story.
Among the 51,379 people newly enrolled in Washington’s Medicaid program, Apple Health, the largest percentage, by far, are children under 18.
More than 13,000 children became enrolled in Medicaid in October – more than a quarter of all new Medicaid sign-ups.
In contrast, only 46 children became enrolled in qualified health plans, or less than 1 percent of the total number.
Adults ages 26 to 34 make up the second-largest group of Medicaid enrollees, at nearly 20 percent of the total.
In contrast, Medicaid enrollees age 55 and older make up about 15 percent.
Overall, the Medicaid figures show a much more even distribution among adult age groups than do the enrollment figures for qualified health plans, which skew heavily toward adults age 55 and older.
The exchange plans to intensify its outreach and enrollment efforts aimed at young adults, according to a statement released with the report.
The exchange has contracted with a national nonprofit group called the Young Invincibles to target outreach efforts to young adults, often referred to as “young invincibles” because they generally use less health care than older adults and may be less motivated to buy health insurance.
Enrolling younger adults in qualified health plans is crucial to the viability of the online insurance marketplaces because their premiums help offset the high medical costs of older, sicker adults.
In other findings, the report states that women made up 57 percent of enrollees in both qualified health plans and the expanded Medicaid program in October.
Among the more than 6,000 state residents who enrolled in private plans, nearly two-thirds chose “silver” level plans, which cover 70 percent of the costs of essential benefits.
The exchange said in its statement that the preference for silver plans is “likely due to cost-sharing subsidies, a form of financial help that lowers additional out of pocket costs such as copays and deductibles, which can only be accessed through a silver level plan under the Affordable Care Act.” These cost-sharing subsidies are separate from the tax credits that help cover the cost of monthly premiums for people who qualify.
In addition to the nearly 64 percent who enrolled in silver plans, more than 20 percent chose bronze plans, which cover 60 percent of the costs of essential health benefits, and almost 16 percent chose gold, which cover 80 percent.
Less than 1 percent enrolled in so-called “catastrophic plans” that have lower premiums but higher deductibles and cost-sharing and are generally available only to adults age 30 or younger.
Enrollment by county:
The report also breaks down enrollment by county. King County accounts for more than one quarter of all enrollments, followed by Pierce (10.9 percent), Spokane (10.2 percent) and Snohomish (8.7 percent) counties.
In Garfield County in southeast Washington, which has a population of around 2,200 people, only one person enrolled in a qualified health plan and 12 people enrolled in Medicaid, the lowest numbers of any county in the state.
November 13, 2013 at 6:43 PM
Washington state continues to report steady progress enrolling residents in health-care coverage through its Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, according to figures released Wednesday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
The new data show that more than 77,000 state residents enrolled in coverage through Healthplanfinder between Oct. 1 and Nov. 7 – the first five weeks of open enrollment for coverage in 2014.
That figure includes 9,230 residents who enrolled in “qualified health plans” being sold through the exchange. Another 68,532 used Healthplanfinder to enroll in Medicaid, which has been expanded to cover more low-income adults.
The latest figures for Washington state are higher than those included in a much-anticipated report, released earlier in the day by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that contains the first national enrollment data released by the Obama administration.
The HHS data showed that 7,091 Washington residents had enrolled in private plans and 48,324 in Medicaid through Healthplanfinder from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31. Those figures put Washington third among all 50 states in the number of residents who have enrolled in private health plans through the online marketplace. Only California and New York reported higher enrollment figures.
The updated Washington data released by the exchange cover enrollment in October as well as the first week in November and show that an additional 2,000 people signed up for qualified health plans during the last week and 20,000 more enrolled in Medicaid.
The new data also show that a total of 153,447 residents have completed applications for coverage in Medicaid or private plans through Healthplanfinder. That figure includes the 77,762 who have completed enrollment.
People who have completed enrollment in a qualified health plan have not only selected a plan and found out their eligibility for financial assistance, they have also submitted electronic payment information for the first month’s premium, which is not due until Dec. 23.
October 31, 2013 at 3:10 PM
The Washington Healthplanfinder website was back up and running early Thursday morning.
The Healthplanfinder website was taken down Tuesday afternoon because of an outage at the Federal Data Services Hub.
The outage at the federal hub was resolved Thursday morning, and Healthplanfinder was back up and running by 6:30 a.m., said Bethany Frey, a spokeswoman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Healthplanfinder.
October 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Seattle Children’s has filed an administrative action requesting that the state insurance office remove from the state exchange health insurance plans that don’t include the medical center in their networks.
The action, filed Tuesday, requests that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner remove the majority of plans from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Only two insurers, Group Health Cooperative and Community Health Plan of Washington, now include Children’s. The appeal seeks to remove Coordinated Care Corporation, Molina Healthcare of Washington, Premera Blue Cross, its subsdiary LifeWise, and BridgeSpan, a Regence subsidiary.
(Update, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22: Seattle Children’s announced Tuesday afternoon that it has reached an agreement with Molina Healthcare of Washington and is now an in-network provider in the health plans Molina is offering through the state’s online insurance marketplace in 2014. Further details were not immediately available.)
The action comes less than a month after Children’s filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court on the same issue. Children’s, in a news release, said it is concerned “that the plans that exclude us don’t provide adequate coverage for kids,” because many of its services are unique and not available anywhere else in the state.
Children’s is also asking the community to directly lobby Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who is holding hearings today on his request to broaden his control over insurer network issues.
October 21, 2013 at 5:53 PM
Three weeks after its launch, Washington’s online insurance marketplace continues to set a strong pace for enrollment.
To date, more than 35,500 Washington residents have enrolled in coverage through the state’s online insurance marketplace, Healthplanfinder, according to data released Monday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. That figure is up about 10,500 from the week before.
Among those who have enrolled so far, about 31,000 have enrolled in Medicaid coverage, while more than 4,500 have enrolled in private health plans.
State officials say they are pleased with the high number of Medicaid enrollments. About two-thirds of those who have enrolled in Medicaid coverage are low-income adults who are newly eligible because of the state’s Medicaid expansion in 2014.
An additional 56,000 Washington residents have completed applications that are only missing the first premium payment, which is not due until December 23. That figure is an increase of nearly 20,000 over the week before.
Most people who have completed applications – or nearly 40,000 of the 56,000 total applicants – are members of households in which at least one member is enrolling in a private health plan while at least one other member qualifies for Medicaid coverage.
More than 16,000 applicants are in households in which all members qualify for private health plans but none are eligible for Medicaid.
Nearly 14,000 additional applicants have completed their entire applications for Medicaid except for the final step that will formally enroll them.
Altogether, that means more than 35,500 Washingtonians have enrolled in coverage through Healthplanfinder and nearly 70,000 additional residents have completed applications.
The latest figures are “really good news,” said Exchange spokeswoman Bethany Frey. “We’re still off to a really strong start.”
Kentucky is another state that has seen strong enrollment numbers in the first three weeks. Kentucky’s exchange, Kynect, reported Monday that nearly 16,000 residents have enrolled in coverage and 45,000 more have started applications.
September 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange will start airing television commercials Tuesday as part of a stepped-up campaign to promote the state’s online insurance marketplace, which opens for enrollment Oct. 1.
The new TV spots convey the sobering message that going without health insurance is “playing with chance” and could lead to a bad outcome.
One of the spots shows a snowboarder hurtling down a mountain and losing control, landing with a bone-crunching thud.
The narrator tells viewers the state’s exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, “offers new low-cost and free plans,” warning that “without one, you could go bust.”
The other ad features a snarling raccoon leaping out of a garbage can, poised to attack a woman in her own backyard.
“Washington Healthplanfinder offers financial help on new plans,” says the narrator, warning that “without one, it could bite you.”
These ads are darker than the sunnier, more upbeat ads that have aired in states such as Colorado and Oregon.
Colorado’s ads focus on the idea that consumers “win” by enrolling in coverage through the state’s health exchange. Ordinary people are shown celebrating their victory as if they have just won a baseball championship or a high-stakes horse race.
Washington’s ad campaign is less about winning than about avoiding disaster.
The TV spots are meant to grab people’s attention, says Michael Marchand, communications director for the agency that operates Washington’s exchange. The goal is to motivate Washington residents – especially the uninsured – to find out how they can get coverage through Healthplanfinder.
Marchand says the two ads resonated with focus groups. A significant number of people identified with the snowboarder and said they worried about engaging in activities that could lead to serious injury, especially if they are uninsured.
The ad featuring the scary raccoon also struck a chord, according to Marchand.
“I was really surprised how many people had had encounters with raccoons,” he said.
The TV spots are part of a broader advertising and promotion campaign that includes radio spots and online ads that started running in August.
The goal is to enroll 130,000 people in health-care coverage through the exchange by the end of this year and 280,000 in 2014.
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