Healthplanfinder

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.

They drink. They dance. And they love the Sasquatch Music Festival, an annual phenomenon in Washington state. But will young people sign up for insurance on the state's health exchange?

The folks who run the exchange were sponsors of the music festival's launch party last month, reminding people they have until the end of March to pick health insurance and see if they qualify for help paying for it.

AP Photo

The federal subsidies are what’s supposed to make Obamacare work; people who wouldn’t be able to afford a decent health plan get help to offset the cost.

But nearly a thousand people who bought plans on Washington’s exchange have learned they’ll be on the hook for the full premium this month.  

About 950 people who were supposed to get retroactive coverage won’t have their promised subsidies discounted from their January bill. They’ll still get the money, but they’ll have to wait until they do their taxes in 2015.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Glitches that kept tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients from re-enrolling this fall continued to trip people up in December, though the state agency that runs Medicaid said the problems are being fixed.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A diverse group of people have signed up for private health insurance on Washington's state-run exchange, but officials say they still need more young people on board. 

As of Jan. 2, some 71,205 people had enrolled in private plans on Washington's health insurance exchange, a good deal less than the goal of 130,000. But Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said it’s still on the low end of the expected range.

Associated Press

Washington's online health insurance exchange was offline overnight until nearly 9 a.m. on Monday morning despite a looming deadline for Washington residents to sign up for health insurance — or at least try to start the process.

A spokesman for the Washington Healthplanfinder says the site was down for scheduled maintenance overnight. And then they extended the closure for another few hours to run some applications that had previously been stopped by error messages.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington residents who have started but not finished their applications for insurance through the state's new health care exchange are getting a deadline extension.

State officials announced Wednesday that anyone who begins an application before Dec. 23, will have until Jan. 1 to finish. Exchange spokesman Michael Marchand says they'll get as much help as they need to make that happen.

Associated Press

The website for Washington's health insurance exchangeis back down again with new technical issues after problems last week took the website down for four days.

Spokeswoman Bethany Frey says problems at the Washington Department of Social and Health Services forced wahealthplanfinder.org to shut down Monday morning. DSHS is having problems with its own system that helps determine whether people are eligible for free or reduced cost insurance.

Like a lot of big projects, Obamacare needs time to be successful. That was the message from Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who testified before a House subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.

Kreidler had been invited to speak by Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, but quickly found himself in the crosshairs of another, Rep. Dave Reichert. 

Associated Press

Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is getting an earful from lawmakers over his decision not to grant relief to people losing their health plans next month.

President Barack Obama, to make good on a promise that had begun to ring hollow, said he’d allow those losing their coverage to keep it for a year. But Kreidler declined the fix, calling it a bad fit for Washington.

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.

Associated Press

The CEO of the Washington state health exchange is getting a 13 percent raise.

The board of the exchange voted 7-1 Wednesday to increase Richard Onizuka's salary from $157,000 per year to just over $177,400. Only one board member, Teresa Mosqueda, voted against the raise, said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

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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