Clark County health enrollments top 3,700

Washington Healthplanfinder hopes to serve more young adults

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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More than 3,700 Clark County residents enrolled in health plans during the first month the state-based insurance exchange was open for business.

Washington Healthplanfinder on Friday released a comprehensive report on the state health care enrollment in October. Across the state, more than 57,700 people used the health exchange, www.wahealthplanfinder.org, to enroll in individual health plans and Medicaid.

In Clark County, 362 people purchased individual health plans in October. Of those, 291 people received a federal tax credit to help pay for coverage; 71 people were not eligible for tax credits. In addition, 3,402 Clark County residents enrolled in Medicaid.

The Clark County enrollment figures account for 6.5 percent of the state's total Washington Healthplanfinder enrollment. Of the 57,719 who signed up across the state, the vast majority (51,368 people) enrolled in Medicaid. Another 6,351 people purchased individual plans.

"We are pleased with the enrollment and completed applications data represented in both Medicaid and Qualified Health Plans," said Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the exchange. "With 6,000 enrolled in Qualified Health Plans and another 21,000 individuals on applications awaiting payment due in December, this is a good start toward reaching out target of 130,000 with coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014."

Unlike the federal website, which has been plagued with problems, Washington's site has had fewer reported troubles after some opening-week bugs.

During the first month the Washington Healthplanfinder website was live, about 30 percent of site visitors took action, according to the state. Nearly 500,000 people visited the website in October. Of those, more than 150,000 either fully enrolled in coverage, completed an application that is awaiting payment or started an application.

Statewide, individual health plan enrollment was lowest among those younger than 25 years old. Only 46 children younger than 18 (less than 1 percent of total enrollment) have been enrolled in individual health plans.

The 18- to 25-year-old age group accounted for about 5 percent of total enrollment in individual plans. The Affordable Care Act extended the age that a person can remain on his or her parent's insurance to 26 years old, which could account for the lower enrollment numbers in that age group.

The state considers young adults (ages 18 to 25) a critical target for enrollment.

"Our team will be continuing to focus on our outreach efforts to this group in new creative ways, including mobile advertising, concert venues and notable local musicians," said Michael Marchand, director of communications for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, in a news release.

Medicaid enrollment, however, was highest among those younger than 18. More than 13,100 children (nearly 26 percent of total enrollment) were signed up for Medicaid in October. The young adult age group accounted for only about 11 percent of Medicaid enrollment, while those 26 to 34 years old made up more than 19 percent.

The comprehensive report also revealed information about the people who enrolled and the types of plans they preferred, including:

• The majority of purchased plans (nearly 64 percent) were silver-level plans, which means the insurance company pays 70 percent of costs and the patients pays 30 percent.

• Most applications (28,482) were for individuals or two-person families (5,782).

• Women accounted for 57 percent of Medicaid and individual health plan enrollments.

• The most populous counties accounted for the majority of the state's total enrollment. Clark County came in fifth behind more populous King, Pierce, Spokane and Snohomish counties.