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HealthCare Checkup

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

Topic: Washington Healthplanfinder

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January 22, 2015 at 5:18 PM

Health-exchange problems easing, but nagging, board told

Staff of the Washington Health Benefits Exchange, which manages the state’s Wahealthplanfinder health-insurance exchange, told its board today that it had significantly improved the processing of account invoices and payments to insurance carriers. Richard Onizuka, CEO of the exchange told board members that of the accounts processed in December, those with carrier-payment problems were down to…

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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.

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Washington Healthplanfinder

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. 

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

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.

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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.

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

November 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

State strips Speedos, rap artists from new insurance ad campaign

Gone from this year’s health-insurance ad campaign are the faux rap artists, backyard raccoon attacks and moustachioed man suspended by his turquoise Speedo. The controversial insurance exchange ads that some deemed offensive are being replaced this year with a new campaign that still aims to be funny — but less sensational. “Last year…

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November 18, 2014 at 6:17 PM

Lawmakers voice anger with insurance exchange’s technical troubles

State lawmakers on Tuesday voiced their continued frustration with the technical problems still afflicting the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange. On Saturday, the first day of enrollment for the second round of insurance signups on the exchange, the site was live for only a couple of hours before a technical error was discovered and the exchange was taken…

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Comments | Topics: Richard Onizuka, Washington Health Benefit Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder

November 17, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Insurance boss Kreidler on the future of health-care reform

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler grabbed national attention last year when he broke with President Obama’s efforts to mollify a public upset by canceled insurance plans. Of late, Kreidler has been openly critical of the state’s botched efforts to make repairs to the online insurance exchange. But Kreidler remains a champion of the effort to make universal…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Mike Kreidler, Office of the Insurance Commissioner

November 15, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Washington Healthplanfinder expects to be working by Sunday morning

By Coral Garnick/Seattle Times staff reporter   Update, 2:35 p.m.: Officials say they now expect to be back online by 8 a.m.  Sunday. A statement issued Saturday afternoon adds, “Thank you for your patience as we work to ensure that customers receive correct information from Healthplanfinder.” The Associated Press reports that state officials and software engineers were trying to resolve…

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October 29, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Small businesses can enroll in Obamacare statewide

Small businesses throughout Washington — those with 50 or fewer employees — can now shop for and enroll in health insurance plans through the state’s insurance exchange.

The exchange got off to a slow start for businesses this year when only one insurance provider, Kaiser Health Plan of the Northwest, agreed to sell plans in the marketplace and only in Clark and Cowlitz counties. For coverage beginning January 2015, small employers statewide can shop the exchange for coverage from Moda Health, and Kaiser will continue selling in the two southern counties. A total of 23 different plans are available from the two insurance companies.

Some businesses using the exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder Business, will be eligible for federal tax breaks, depending on the number of employees and their salaries.

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

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