Washington Healthplan Finder

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington's health care exchange will likely be off line until Sunday morning.

The site was working for the first few hours of open enrollment Saturday, until a problem with tax credit calculations was discovered.

Gabriel Spitzer

Midnight Monday marks the end of the first open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That means most people without insurance come Tuesday will have to wait seven months to sign up.

In spite of some outages, last-minute shoppers have mobbed the websites for state and federal exchanges. And they also showed up in person at King County’s public health headquarters for an eleventh-hour enrollment event.

Washington’s health insurance exchange has ramped up its customer-service call center in anticipation of a big surge in enrollments this month. But callers should still hunker down for a long wait.

The Spokane-based call center got an average of more than 40,000 calls a day in January, but managed to answer just 15 percent of them. Of the rest, the vast majority got a message telling them to give up and call back later, while others hung up due to wait times that averaged 40 minutes or more.

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.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Washington state’s insurance commissioner says he will not allow companies to extend canceled policies. State commissioners are able to overrule the concession President Barack Obama announced Thursday.

Commissioner Mike Kreidler said allowing people to keep their old plans would warp the whole marketplace.

Associated Press

New federal statistics show Washington state has signed more people up for health insurance since open enrollment began Oct. 1 than any state other than New York and California.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Even as Congress squabbles over the fate of health care reform, Washington’s insurance marketplace opens its virtual doors Tuesday morning.

As Gov. Jay Inslee put it, "Despite the shenanigans in D.C., we're ready to [launch our health care exchange].”

Officials running the exchange said their federal grants have already been appropriated and they expect to be fully funded through next year.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Small businesses in Washington state will not be able to participate in the new health care law, because not enough insurance companies were willing to sell them coverage. 

The biggest part of Pres. Barack Obama’s new health care law is aimed at people with no health insurance. Starting this fall, they’ll be able to buy individual health policies from an online system where they can compare prices. It's also where you can get subsidies for insurance. In Washington state, it's called Washington HealthPlan Finder.

If you work for a business with fewer than 50 employees, the law says your employer has the option of getting insurance for low and middle-income workers—with subsidies. That won’t happen in Washington, at least not on time.