Health care enrollment climbs in county

Sign-ups nearly doubled in Nov., state reports says

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Nearly twice as many Clark County residents enrolled in health plans through the state-based insurance exchange during the website's second month of business.

Washington Healthplanfinder on Thursday released a comprehensive report on the most recent health care enrollment figures. In the month of November, 7,263 people in the county enrolled, compared with 3,764 in October, according to state data.

More than 11,000 people in the county enrolled in individual health plans and Medicaid through the health exchange between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. Across the state, more than 179,000 people used the exchange, www.wahealthplanfinder.org, to enroll in health plans in that two-month period.

In Clark County, 833 people purchased individual health plans in November. Of those, 779 people received a federal tax credit to help pay for coverage; 54 people weren't eligible for tax credits. In addition, another 6,430 Clark County residents enrolled in Medicaid in November.

That brings Clark County's total number of people enrolled during the exchange's first two months up to 11,027. The vast majority (9,832 people) have enrolled in Medicaid, while 1,195 people purchased individual health plans.

At the state level, 20,144 people (15,925 of whom received tax credits) purchased individual plans and 159,186 people enrolled in Medicaid in October and November. That's up from 6,351 individual plan enrollments and 51,368 Medicaid enrollments in October.

"We were pleased to see the growth in private health plan enrollment last month," Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in a news release. "With 53,000 individuals close to completing the process, we believe enrollment in these plans will grow exponentially as we move toward the Dec. 23 deadline for coverage that begins on Jan. 1."

According to the state, an additional 53,913 people have completed applications for individual health plans but have yet to submit payment. Another 72,136 people have started applications or completed applications that need to be finalized, according to the state.

Open enrollment runs through March 31.

Website woes

Recently, the Washington Healthplanfinder website has experienced problems that put the website out of service for several days.

The site was down for four days last week for unscheduled maintenance and down again Monday due to problems with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services system, which Healthplanfinder uses to determine whether people are eligible for free or reduced-cost insurance.

The site was back up and running Tuesday, but Healthplanfinder staff members continue to address issues that are plaguing users and preventing them from completing the enrollment process.

"We want our customers to know that we are doing everything we can to move all applications through the enrollment process that are submitted by Dec. 23," Onizuka said.