Politics blog

Washington health exchange won’t be extending Monday sign-up deadline

OlympianMarch 27, 2014 

Richard Onizuka, chief executive for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, talking in his office Olympia last September.

PETER HALEY — The News Tribune/Olympian

Monday is the do-or-die deadline for signing up for health coverage in Washington state through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange for coverage in 2014. Those not signed up could face tax penalties on returns filed with the IRS next year – as outlined here.

President Obama said on Tuesday that the March 31 deadline would be extended for those who claimed to have started their enrollments previously. But Washington Healthplanfinder, the state exchange portal, does not plan to offer that extended enrollment period, believing it would be disruptive.

Asked why the state chose not to offer leniency, exchange spokesman Michael Marchand said in an email that:

“we have communicated early and often about the importance of the March 31 deadline and the steps that consumers should take to ensure they will have coverage prior to  close. To change that messaging in the final week would likely create more confusion for the consumer and force in-person assisters, agents, brokers and call center representatives to divert focus from enrolling those who wanted to get coverage. Our approach, including the consideration provided for special enrollment, is a much cleaner way to ensure that all individuals who are seeking health coverage for themselves and loved ones are able to get it and identify and assist those that may qualify for additional consideration.”

Richard Onizuka, chief executive for the exchange, put out a statement Wednesday announcing the state would stick with the deadline:

“Yesterday, the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services issued a statement regarding a March 31 deadline extension for residents facing technical issues with Healthcare.gov. Similar to the federal government, we are not extending the March 31 deadline for Washington State residents seeking coverage through our state-based insurance marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder.

Customers must complete the entire application process and submit payment by 11:59 pm on March 31 to qualify for coverage beginning May 1. Otherwise, customers may enroll during the next open enrollment period of Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015 for coverage that takes effect in 2015.

Consideration may be provided on a case-by-case basis for individuals who were technologically unable to complete and pay for their coverage prior to March 31 at 11:59 pm due to an error with the Washington Healthplanfinder system. The Exchange will contact customers who are not able to complete their applications with information about receiving coverage after the deadline, but affected customers may also call 1-855-923-4633 or email customersupport@wahbexchange.org  to report their situation. This does not include customers who submit incomplete or incorrect information, or did not take steps to finish their current application in the system.

Customers may enroll outside of the standard open enrollment period if they have a qualifying event, such as getting married or having a baby. Those who qualify for Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) may enroll at any point during the year, as well as American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Indians eligible for services through an Indian health care provider.”


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