The Politics Blog

UPDATE - Wash. health exchange: 9,452 applicants got coverage in the first week; most are in Medicaid

OlympianOctober 7, 2013 

Richard Onizuka

PETER HALEY — The News Tribune

Washington’s health insurance exchange was able to sign up 916 residents for private plan coverage during the launch of Obamacare in the past week, and another 8,540 were signed up for Medicaid as of midnight Sunday. Another 10,500 have completed applications for private insurance but not yet sent in payments to complete enrollment.

The Oct. 1 launch of Washington’s Healthplanfinder site was marked by computer glitches that initially left the system inaccessible for periods of time Troubles have afflicted the Obamacare exchanges in several states – and the troubles continued Monday in Oregon where enrollments still could not be completed online.  

In a news release, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange said 39,115 accounts were created by consumers who visited the site and wanted to look at prices. Of those, 10,497 completed applications for coverage but hadn't made initial payments, 916 were fully enrolled in private plans and another 8,440 secured coverage through Medicaid. 

“The number of applications we’ve received is a strong start to our six-month open enrollment period,” Richard Onizuka, chief executive for the exchange, said in the news release. “While we’ve seen a high level of initial interest, we know that many individuals will continue to shop and wait to purchase a health plan until much closer to the effective start of coverage on Jan. 1, 2014.”

The exchange released data on Monday showing its site at wahealthplanfinder.org had more than 837,000 site visits and more than 2.5 million page views.

The figures for Medicaid enrollments included 5,946 who become newly eligible after Jan. 1. Another 2,594 applicants were eligible immediately for Medicaid coverage under old eligibility rules but had not been signed up for it.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, the federal government is picking up all of the cost for the expanded Medicaid eligiblity through 2016. The health reform law raised income eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty line and made coverage eligible for childless adults who are not disabled for the first time starting Jan. 1.

The state Health Care Authority manages Medicaid, and HCA director Dorothy Teeter said in the news release that the Healthplanfinder site is improving every day. “It is clear that shoppers are able to navigate the system and secure health insurance coverage that fits their needs,” Teeter said.

UPDATE: This post was updated to correct numbers of people enrolled. 

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