Washington’s health insurance exchange reported Monday it is still making slow but steady progress signing up uninsured people for health coverage. Its weekly report showed 7,341 people are fully enrolled for private-insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, and another 48,324 are signed up for Medicaid either immediately or at the start of the new year.
The grand total is 55,367 residents covered overall as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
After initial glitches when it opened on Oct. 1, the Healthplanfinder site has had far fewer problems than a federally run exchange, or compared to other state-run exchanges such as Oregon’s. But Washington’s call center has had long waiting times – averaging 21 minutes per call – and last week there temporarily was a problem in calculating tax credits.
But the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is arranging to add 145 staffers over several weeks to the Spokane-based call center. After the first 20 extra staffers started work last week, call wait times were cut slightly to just below 20 minutes – or 19:55 minutes on average.
“We had 20 people start last week. I think we’ll have another 50 by mid-November. After that we’re supposed to add another 75 in short order,” exchange spokeswoman Bethany Frey said Monday. “They are all going through the training process right now.”
The 55,367 signed up so far for private-insurance health plans or free care under Medicaid are not the full story of enrollments at the exchange. Another 58,140 applications have been completed to secure either private insurance or Medicaid coverage for about 104,631 more of the state’s residents - of whom nearly 1 million have lacked insurance.
A county-by-county report with more detail on the first month's sign-ups is being prepared for release later this week.
Far more enrollments are expected to be completed as the Dec. 23 payment deadline draws nearer for private insurance coverage that starts Jan. 1.