health exchange

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s health care exchange will reopen for business late this week, and exchange officials say people will have more choices and a smoother shopping experience this time around.

Saturday will mark the start of the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. That means that most individuals will be able to get new health insurance or change plans for the first time since last spring.

Exchange spokesman Michael Marchand said they will find the list of options has grown.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

After a rocky start, Washington’s health benefits exchange is taking a victory lap. Officials say the exchange got the late surge in enrollments it was counting on, pushing up its final numbers.

The first open enrollment period of Obamacare ended in March, and now that the exchange has processed most of the stragglers, it has released new numbers: 164,062 people enrolled in private plans, with another 423,205 enrolling in Medicaid through March 31. Factor in those now required to use the exchange’s website to re-up their Medicaid, and the number exceeds a cool million.

Washington Health Benefits Exchange

Washington’s health exchange is wrestling with how to accommodate people who have had trouble signing up for insurance. The March 31 deadline has been looming for months, as officials urge people to get covered or face a fine.

But considering the well-known problems at the state and federal exchanges, officials figured some people will need an extension. The question is who gets it.

Most Americans who still don’t have health insurance by March 31 could face a fine, and Washington’s health benefits exchange is hoping the looming deadline will help motivate people to enroll. But so far, the exchange is lagging behind its goals.

Massachusetts, which served as a template for the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to get insurance or pay a penalty, saw a huge rush just before the deadline. Exchange board member Phil Dyer says Washington needs a similar surge.

“Well, I feel like we’re behind the power curve. We’ve got a long way to go,” Dyer said. “Let’s wait and see if March gets us there, and then take a hard look at planning for Exchange 2.0.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Washington’s new health insurance exchange has been touting its strong enrollment numbers, especially in comparison to the deeply-troubled federal exchange. But members of the board overseeing the exchange are starting to express some anxiety about meeting their signup goals.

The exchange reports 98,399 enrollments, as of mid-November. But the vast majority, 88 percent, are enrolled in the government-sponsored Medicaid program. The state needs to get many more people into private qualified health plans, or QHPs, to create a functioning market.

Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Washington’s health exchange has been a bright spot in the slipshod rollout of Obamacare, but one requirement for signing up could be a barrier to the very people the new law is supposed to serve.

To sign up for coverage on WAHealthPlanFinder.org, you have to make your first payment by credit card, debit card or electronic funds transfer from a bank account.

But recent studies show about one-fourth of Washington households are either “unbanked” with no access to an account, or “underbanked" with limited access. The number of those affected is even higher in low-income and minority communities to which many of the exchange’s target audience belong.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The Washington state health care exchange website was temporarily down on Wednesday morning as a result of a digital snag in Washington, D.C.

Michael Marchand, spokesman for the state exchange, says Washington state's website depends on a component of the federal system to work. At the moment, it doesn't work, but once it's fixed, the state site can start accepting applications again.

He spoke to KPLU's Ed Ronco about the details during Morning Edition. 

On the day President Barack Obama acknowledged major flaws in the rollout of health insurance marketplaces, Washington’s exchange reported strong enrollment. Washington Healthplanfinder announced some 35,000 people have enrolled in a plan through the website, and another 56,000 are working their way through the process.

Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the exchange, said Washington’s site was designed to get the basics right.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

When Jeff Lindstrom started buying health insurance-related Internet domain names a few years ago, he thought he was being a smart, creative businessman.

Lindstrom, an insurance broker who works in the Seattle area, bought 40-50 domain names and hit the jackpot with one choice: washingtonhealthplanfinder.org. No, that's not the state's new health insurance marketplace. That's Lindstrom's brokerage site.

jennyonthespot / Flickr

Seattle Children’s Hospital has filed a suit against the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, alleging it was largely cut out of the state’s new health insurance exchange.

There are eight insurance companies on Washington HealthPlanFinder, the marketplace that opened this week for individuals shopping for coverage. Six of them don’t include Seattle Children’s Hospital in their networks.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

After a rocky start, Washington’s Health Plan Finder website is now running smoothly, according to a spokesman for the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.

Michael Marchand said Friday users are not experiencing the same slowdowns and other problems that plagued the website earlier in the week.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington state's new health insurance exchange is open and ready for business on its second day of operation.

Computer problems closed the website for the health insurance marketplace for hours on Tuesday morning, its first day of operation.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Washington’s new health insurance exchange made a brief appearance Tuesday morning before going dark for much of the day. 

The site was supposed to come online at 7:30. Exchange officials say they quickly began receiving complaints that the site was loading slowly for some users, and not loading at all for others. Spokesman Michael Marchand says by 8:30, officials decided to pull the site offline to make repairs.

Paul Beaty / AP Photo

The menu of choices on Washington’s new health insurance exchange now includes 43 different plans provided by eight companies.

Consumer choice will vary by county, but every county in the state will have at least two providers to choose from.

HealthCare.gov

The menu of health insurance plans that will soon be offered to Washington consumers is still up in the air. The board overseeing the new health benefits exchange is holding out for more choices.

Washington’s insurance commissioner has approved four providers to offer 31 plans on Washington HealthPlanFinder, the new online marketplace for individuals that’s supposed to launch Oct. 1.

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