'Obamacare' health care enrollment climbs on Peninsula

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The number of North Olympic Peninsula residents who enrolled in health plans and Medicaid through the "Obamacare" state-based insurance exchange jumped during the website's second month of business.

Washington Healthplanfinder released a comprehensive report at the end of last week on the most recent health care enrollment figures.

In November, 2,301 people in Jefferson and Clallam counties enrolled, compared with 1,390 in October, according to state data.

Using the health exchange between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 3,691 people on the Peninsula enrolled in individual health plans and for free insurance through Medicaid.

Across the state, more than 179,000 used the exchange, www.wahealthplanfinder.org, to sign up in health plans and Medicaid in that two-month period.

In Jefferson County, 174 people purchased individual health plans in November.

Of those, 152 received a federal tax credit to help pay for coverage; 22 weren't eligible for tax credits. In addition, another 549 Jefferson residents enrolled in Medicaid in November.

In Clallam, 321 bought health plans, 291 of them getting tax credits. Another 1,257 signed up for Medicaid.

Of the people who signed up during the exchange's first two months, the vast majority — 1,948 in Clallam and 973 in Jefferson — have enrolled in Medicaid, while 505 in Clallam and 265 in Jefferson purchased individual health plans.

At the state level, 20,144 people, 15,925 of whom received tax credits, purchased individual plans and 159,186 people enrolled in Medicaid in October and November.

That's up from 6,351 individual plan enrollments and 51,368 Medicaid enrollments in October.

“We were pleased to see the growth in private health plan enrollment last month,” Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in a news release.

According to Onizuka, an additional 53,913 people statewide have completed applications for individual health plans but have yet to submit payment.

Another 72,136 people have started applications or completed applications that need to be finalized, according to the state.

Open enrollment runs through March 31.

Officials at the exchange are expecting a spike in completed enrollments in December.

Their goal is to have 130,000 people buy private insurance in time to have coverage Jan. 1. Payment for coverage that starts in January is due Dec. 23.

Recently, the Washington Healthplanfinder website has experienced problems that put the website out of service for several days.

The site was down for four days during the first week of December for unscheduled maintenance and down again for a day last week due to problems with the state Department of Social and Health Services system, which Healthplanfinder uses to determine whether people are eligible for free or reduced-cost insurance.

Healthplanfinder staff members continue to address issues that are plaguing users and preventing them from completing the enrollment process.

“We want our customers to know that we are doing everything we can to move all applications through the enrollment process that are submitted by Dec. 23,” Onizuka said.

In addition to enrolling online, Washington residents can sign up for health insurance in person, on over the phone or by contacting an insurance agent or broker.

Onizuka said that most applications statewide have come from one-person households and nearly 20 percent of the enrollees buying private plans were in the 18- to 34-year-old category.

About 40 percent are between the ages of 55 and 64.

Nearly 160,000 Washington residents have signed up for Medicaid. Fifty-four percent of Medicaid enrollments have been women, and women make up 57 percent of the private plan enrollments.

Nearly 60 percent of people enrolled in the private plans have selected the middle “silver” plan, which covers 70 percent of health expenses, leaving the patient to cover 30 percent.

Twenty-nine percent have selected “bronze” plans, which cover 60 percent of the costs, and 11 percent have chosen the top-level “gold” plan, which covers 80 percent of medical costs.

Last modified: December 16. 2013 1:49AM
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