As far fewer people buy insurance through the state exchange than projected, a new enrollment period is announced.
Even as some in Congress call for extending the deadline to sign up for health insurance at the federal Healthcare.gov, officials with Washington state’s exchange announced a special enrollment period for those who didn’t meet the Sunday deadline.
The extended enrollment period for Washington Healthplanfinderwill run from Tuesday through April 17, and will be open to consumers who either were not aware of the tax penalty for failing to get insurance or who were prevented from completing their enrollment due to technical issues or confusion about the process.
Nearly 160,000 consumers enrolled in plans during the just-ended open enrollment period, about 50,000 fewer than what the exchange had projected as needed for it to be self-sustaining, as required by Legislature.
“Obviously we hope that [the special enrollment] will help some of our enrollment numbers,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which manages Wahealthplanfinder.
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“We’re still trying to figure out what the numbers mean,” he added. “Based on this we will do some revenue projections and share them with the Legislature.”
Exchange officials, others helping with enrollment and customers cite numerous reasons for the missed targets. News of ongoing technical problems, including canceled payments and confusion about the renewal process, drove some customers away. A larger-than-expected number of potential customers wound up being eligible for free insurance through Medicaid. As unemployment has continued to decline in Washington, some residents could be leaving the exchange as they land jobs with benefits.
Cost also continues to be an issue with enrollments. Even with subsidies, the monthly premiums are too costly for some people. And while the penalty for being uninsured goes up in 2015 to $325 per adult or 2 percent of adjusted household income, whichever is higher, for many people it’s still cheaper to pay the penalty and hope they stay healthy.
Onizuka said the exchange is concerned that some consumers might not be aware until they begin preparing their taxes that they face the penalty — and may want to enroll after all.
“The special enrollment is to give consumers as much opportunity to get health insurance if they are confused or have trouble online,” said Onizuka.
Consumers who want to take advantage of the special enrollment period should follow one of two courses of action, depending up on the reason for not having completed an application.
Those who were unaware of the tax penalty should complete an online application at Wahealthplanfinder.org and, when prompted to select the type of special enrollment being applied for, select “other.” The consumer will then be asked to contact the toll-free Customer Support Center to request a special enrollment at 855-923-4633.
Consumers who encountered technical issues, or confusing instructions, that prevented them from completing an application should either call the Customer Support Center at 855-923-4633 or email email@example.com to request a special enrollment or report their situation.
Those wanting to take advantage of the special enrollment must initiate their request by 4:59 p.m. April 17, and must select a health plan and submit a payment by 11:59 p.m. April 17 to obtain coverage for 2015.