Washington state will likely increase the number of people enrolled in Obamacare this year. So far 9,000 more people have signed for coverage this year than at the end of enrollment last year.
Washington state is on pace to increase the number of people with health insurance despite efforts by the Republican Congress and the Trump administration to gut the laws known as Obamacare that expanded insurance coverage across the nation.
So far consumers have selected 234,000 plans during Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s 2018 enrollment period, which ends Monday. That’s 9,000 more than last year. Of the 225,000 plans picked for the 2017 enrollment period, 204,000 followed through to purchase the coverage.
Exchange officials believe a similar percentage — if not higher — will end up purchasing plans this year.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that about 8.8 million people signed up for health insurance through the federal government’s website, Healthcare.gov, used by states that don’t run their own exchanges. That’s less than the 12.2 million who signed up a year earlier.
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The Trump administration reduced the Healthcare.gov enrollment period by a month and slashed the advertising budget for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from $100 million to $10 million. Adding to the confusion, Congress twice tried and failed to repeal the ACA last year, and Trump ordered and end to subsidy payments to insurers that had reduced out-of-pocket costs for patients.
Consumers across the country also faced rising insurance rates, attributed largely to the continued effort to repeal the ACA.
Washington state runs its own exchange and website so was able to keep enrollment open through mid-January compared to the federal cutoff of Dec. 15.
The year-over-year increase is attributed to a number of factors, said Michael Marchand, chief marketing officer and spokesman for Washington Health Benefit Exchange. He cites the creation of the Healthplanfinder website and outreach from partner organizations and so-called navigators, people who are tasked with going into communities and helping the uninsured sign up for coverage.
Marchand also believes that people are smart about health insurance and after five years of seeing the exchange work, they continue to sign up.
“Now that people understand the value of health insurance, they want to keep it for themselves and their family. It means something to them,” he said. “And while price is and will always be an issue, it no longer outweighs the personal and financial piece of mind that health insurance coverage provides.”
The ranks of the uninsured have declined in Washington state since the ACA went into effect in 2013. In Washington state, 5.8 percent of residents were uninsured in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available. that compares to 14 percent in 2013. King County has more recent data showing that the uninsured went from 16.4 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2016.
The battle over the ACA isn’t finished. Congress eliminated the individual mandate through the new tax bill signed by the president in December. The mandate required most Americans to buy at least a minimum level of health-care coverage.
Its elimination won’t go into effect until 2019.