Topic: Washington Healthplanfinder
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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 20, 2013 at 4:05 PM
After President Obama last week announced that states would have the option of asking insurers to revive canceled health-insurance plans, Washington’s insurance commissioner immediately nixed the idea.
Commissioner Mike Kreidler explained his decision, saying Washington’s Healthplanfinder insurance exchange is working, and that allowing a bunch of people to re-up on plans deemed insufficient threatens the success of the new system.
The premise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that nearly everyone has comprehensive insurance coverage through insurance plans or public programs, sharing the costs for medical care among the old and young, the healthy and ill. Kreidler had numerous questions and concerns about how changing the rules for insurance plans work work this late in the game.
So what did the rest of the nation do? The New York Times has a nifty graphic illustrating who’s doing what. It turns out seven other states have joined Washington’s thanks-but-no-thanks position, including New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Indiana, Rhode Island, Maryland and Minnesota. Those open to extending the plans include Oregon, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
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.
November 13, 2013 at 4:02 PM
More people have signed up for private health plans through Obamacare in Washington state than in any other state except California and New York, according to a report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The national enrollment figures are the first to be released by HHS since the online insurance marketplaces, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” opened Oct. 1.
The HHS data show that a total of 106,185 people in all 50 states and the District Columbia have selected a health plan through the online marketplaces. That figure includes people who have submitted their first premium payment, not due until mid-December, as well as people who have not.
An additional 975,000 people have completed applications and learned their eligibility for premium subsidies but have not yet selected a health plan, according to the report.
Among the more than 106,000 who have signed up for a health plan through the exchanges, 79,391 – or more than three-fourths – reside in the 14 states that have chosen to run their own exchange marketplaces, such as Washington. The other 26,794 enrollees are in the 36 states that have chosen to rely on the federal marketplace.
California accounts for more than a third of the nearly 80,000 people who have enrolled in coverage through the state-run exchanges, with 35,364 enrollees in Covered California. New York’s insurance exchange, NY State of Health, ranks second, with 16,404 enrollees.
In Washington, 7,091 residents enrolled in private plans through Washington Healthplanfinder through Oct. 31, which puts the state third in enrollment among all states.
Kentucky ranks fourth, with 5,586 residents who have signed up for coverage in private insurance plans.
The state-run exchanges have generally had a smoother rollout than the federal marketplace, which has been hampered by technical glitches in its online portal, Healthcare.gov.
Among states in which residents are signing up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, the highest enrollment figures so far have been seen in Florida (3,571), Texas (2,991) and Pennsylvania (2,207).
At the bottom of the rankings are Alaska, with 53 enrollments, and North Dakota, with 42.
Two states with their own exchanges – Hawaii and Oregon – have not posted any enrollment figures to date. Both have had significant problems with their websites. Oregon’s site is still unable to process applications, which prompted Cover Oregon officials to announce recently that they will hire 400 new workers to manually process applications.
November 12, 2013 at 7:14 PM
If you enrolled in a health plan through Washington Healthplanfinder last month and were given a tax credit to help cover the cost, you might want to check your Healthplanfinder account.
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the online exchange marketplace, has begun posting notices to the Healthplanfinder accounts of about 8,000 state residents affected by an error that caused a miscalculation of their tax credits.
In all of those cases, applicants were told they qualified for a higher tax credit than they are actually eligible to receive based on their income and household size.
The difference may be less than a dollar a month for some enrollees, but it could be much higher for others, exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said in a statement released late Tuesday.
“On average the difference is about $100 a month,” Onizuka said.
The exchange went public about the miscalculated tax credits in late October.
Since then, the exchange has been working to recalculate the eligibility determination for each tax-credit recipient and to make sure that all tax credit information is correct, Onizuka said.
The notices that have started posting to some online accounts include the applicant’s corrected tax-credit amount as well as instructions for using Healthplanfinder to either approve the health plan the applicant previously selected or to choose a different plan in light of the recalculated tax credit.
The same notices will also go out by mail this week, said exchange spokeswoman Bethany Frey.
In his statement, Onizuka encouraged anyone who received a tax credit for a plan purchased through the exchange to doublecheck the amount to confirm its accuracy before paying the first monthly premium.
November 8, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Washington state has gotten plenty of props for a health-insurance website that works better than most. At last count, 55,000 residents had enrolled in Medicaid or individual insurance through the state exchange.
Yet Washington Healthplanfinder has its limitations. Some of the search functions, for example, still don’t quite seem to work reliably, including the option to “customize my search.” And by design, the site is built only to let you search for plans inside the insurance exchange, but not outside (plans outside are not eligible for federal tax subsidies).
So what’s a health-insurance consumer to do in the new world of the Affordable Care Act? One option is to ditch the official sites and explore the sometimes deceptive but potentially informative world of the private sector. That’s right folks, you can go rogue.
The best site for comparative shopping that we at HealthCare Checkup have found bills itself as the “Washington Health Insurance Exchange,” but make no mistake, this is a private site run by an insurance broker named Vernon Bonfield. In small print on his home page, Bonfield explains that the site is NOT a government site, but someone stumbling on the page could easily be confused. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Gov. Jay Inslee have both criticized the site as being misleadingly similar to the state page.
That said, Bonfield’s site makes it easy to call up health-insurance plans inside and outside of the exchange for side-by-side comparisons. His site also includes a calculator for entering your income level and estimating your potential tax break to defray premium costs. You don’t need to share your name or otherwise register to use the site.
Brokers like Bonfield are licensed to represent specific insurance companies, and are paid commissions from those companies for selling their products. Their job is to advise consumers on which plan they should buy based on their health care needs and financial constraints.
By comparison, the “in-person assisters” and “navigators” who are trained to help people maneuver the state’s exchange site are not allowed to suggest which plan would be best to purchase. Healthplanfinder can help you locate brokers and navigators near you, and the state has a database to doublecheck that your broker is legit and to find out which insurance companies they can represent.
Other sites offer similar services for comparing and shopping for health plans, including the national company eHealth, though their site only gives insurance options for “featured” companies, unless you look for the fine print and ask it to display all of the plans available.
A government-provided option for comparing plans inside and outside of the exchange is available on the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s webpage, but you have to click on links for each insurance company and there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to do side-by-side comparisons of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and all that good stuff.
For folks trying to navigate the new world of individual insurance plans, it can feel like the Wild West out there. There’s still uncertainty about what the rules mean and how they’re being interpreted by insurance companies. The government has shifted deadlines and there’s pressure for them to make more changes. It can be tough to track who the players are and the names of new programs.
If you’ve discovered other sites or resources to help sort out your insurance options, please let us know, and be sure to stay tuned for updates and explanations as the health-care overhaul continues to unfold.
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 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.
October 18, 2013 at 6:30 AM
If you live on the Eastside and want to learn more about possibly buying health-insurance coverage on the state’s new exchange, Saturday presents a good opportunity.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Crossroads Bellevue mall, staff known as “assisters” will be on hand to help you compare coverage plans, determine eligibility for subsidies, or navigate the state’s new health-insurance website. The mall is at 15600 N.E. Eighth Street in Bellevue. Translators will be available for those whose first language is not English.
Public Health-Seattle & King County is sponsoring the event.
If you are considering enrolling, you’ll want to have this information with you:
■ Names, birthdays, address and contact information for everyone in your household;
■ Social Security numbers;
■ Passport, alien, or other immigration numbers — for any legal immigrants who want health-care coverage;
■ Estimated tax status for 2012, 2013 and 2014 for all household members;
■ Income information for 2012, 2013 and 2014 for all adults and all minors age 14 or older who are required to file a tax return;
■ Information about health insurance already available to your family, such as employer-sponsored insurance, Medicare or TriCare.
Most people are signing for coverage by using the state’s insurance-exchange website, Washington Healthplanfinder. Still, according to the public health agency, more than 180 people attended an advice and signup event in Lake Forest Park last week, and 150 to an earlier event at Garfield Community Center in Seattle.
The health agency reports that more than 11,000 Bellevue residents are uninsured, as are 4,000 in Redmond — and most are eligible for low-cost or free insurance.
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