By Louise Norris
March 31, 2014
The deadline to enroll in a new policy through Washington Healthplanfinder is 11:59pm on Monday, March 31. The exchange is NOT broadly extending the deadline for enrollment, as they believe that doing so would be disruptive and cause confusion following the months of announcements that open enrollment ends on March 31. But the exchange has said that it will work with people on a case-by-case basis who are unable to complete their application because of a technical problem with the website (expected to be relatively few and far between, as the site has been functioning well for months).
By March 25, enrollment in private plans through Washington Healthplanfinder had grown to 125,000 – up from just over 107,000 at the start of the month. More than 12,000 people had enrolled in just the past week alone, which is four times as high as the normal weekly enrollment. In addition to the private plan enrollments, 628,893 people had enrolled in Medicaid through the Washington exchange by March 1. Another 184,317 people had enrolled in private individual plans outside of the exchange in Washington as of the end of January – a number that was continuing to climb throughout open enrollment.
In addition to the total completed enrollments, by January 28 there were 81,000 applicants who had completed everything except paying the first premium. Insurers and the exchange have been working together to make sure that everyone who was trying to enroll was able to do so, being flexible on payment deadlines as much as possible. In most exchanges, insureds pay premiums directly to the carriers. But in Washington, enrollees pay their premiums directly to Washington Healthplanfinder and the exchange then sends the premiums out to each insurer.
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Governor Jay Inslee have taken a strong progressive stance with regards to consumer protections: existing plans that do not meet ACA standards must end as of December 31, being replaced on January 1 with new, ACA-compliant policies. Following President Obama’s announcement that carriers could extend existing plans into 2014 if states allowed it, Kreidler and Inslee were quick to declare that Washington would not allow non-compliant plans to continue into 2014.
Washington was one of the first states to move ahead with a state-run health insurance marketplace as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act. Former Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation creating the state exchange in May 2011. In March 2012 Gregoire signed additional legislation, which further defined how the exchange will be governed and operated.
The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) helped establish the Washington marketplace. HCA transitioned governing authority to an 11-member board of directors in March 2012. The governor appointed eight voting members and a board chairperson who votes only in if needed to break a tie. In addition, the insurance commissioner and the administrator of the Health Care Authority are non-voting members.
Eight insurers are selling individual policies through the Washington Healthplanfinder:
The carriers are offering a total of 46 individual policy options, but not all options are available in all counties. Pediatric dental-only coverage is being offered by Delta Dental of Washington, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, LifeWise, and Premera Blue Cross in all 39 counties.
The federal government is funding the Washington Healthplanfinder in 2014. In 2015, marketplace operations will be funded by the state with $21 million that was previously earmarked for the state’s high-risk insurance pool, which will be operated through the exchange, and with a 2 percent tax on premiums on plans sold through the exchange.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 835,000 Washington residents are eligible to use the new marketplace. The Washington insurance commissioner’s office estimates that 477,400 residents will qualify for subsidies, and state has a target of enrolling 130,000 people through the marketplace by Jan. 1 and 280,000 people in 2014.
Washington Health Benefit Exchange
Information about marketplace planning and development
State Exchange Profile: Washington
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Washington’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.