As problems continue to dog the federally run health insurance marketplace, Washington’s state-run Healthplanfinder site is making steady, modest headway in getting people signed up for coverage in 2014.
The exchange reported this week that 35,528 Washingtonians had signed up for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act since the exchanges opened on Oct. 1.
The Washington exchange has received national attention for having fewer problems and more success than the federal exchange.
But the Healthplanfinder exchange is not proceeding without hitches. Spokeswoman Bethany Frey with the Washington Health Benefit Exchange said waiting times at the exchange’s call center are still too long — averaging 21 minutes — due to heavy demand. But the center is taking steps to beef up responses and shorten the delays, Frey said.
In a sign that enrollments will continue to climb, the health exchange has an additional 40,400 completed applications covering 56,000 individuals that are one step away from becoming full enrollments. All that’s needed to complete those is payment of a first month’s premium.
“It’s clear that residents here in Washington are very interested in this new opportunity and the health insurance options that are available,” Richard Onizuka, chief executive for Healthplanfinder and the exchange agency, said in a statement. “We are continuing to reach out to individuals through a statewide advertising campaign, our community partners and insurance brokers and most recently our mobile enrollment tour, which kicked off last week.”
The outreach includes a statewide promotion with events planned from Oct. 20 to Nov. 12 at eight sites. They include a Sunday event at the Olympia Farmers Market from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and another Nov. 2 at the Tacoma Mall.
As in other states, new Medicaid patients are the biggest group of enrollees. Of the more than 35,000 people enrolled for coverage under the Affordable Care Act so far in Washington, 19,658 are covered by Medicaid and will start getting free health coverage on Jan. 1.
That new coverage is available in states that chose to implement the ACA’s expansion of the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program that provides health care to the poor. Starting in January, it will cover childless adults for the first time and have a slightly higher income eligibility cap.
A similar picture is emerging among pending applications, of which at least 13,816 could go through Medicaid.
Washington also has enrolled another 11,341 people who already qualified for Medicaid under the old rules but had not applied previously.
Earlier this year, the governor’s executive policy office predicted that 130,000 people would use the exchange to sign up for private insurance by the end of the year. State officials also expect Medicaid enrollment to grow by 190,000 once coverage begins in January.Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 email@example.com theolympian.com/politics-blog theolympian.com/state-workers @bradshannon2