The number of people purchasing health plans from the state-based insurance exchange reached record levels this year in Clark County and across the state.
During this year’s open enrollment, which ended Jan. 15, a total of 209,802 people purchased health plans on Washington Healthplanfinder. That’s nearly a 3 percent increase over last year and 50 percent higher than the number of enrollees during the first open enrollment period in 2014, according to the exchange’s 2018 Open Enrollment Report.
In Clark County, health plan enrollment grew by 10 percent this year, with 12,666 people purchasing plans on the exchange. That’s a 48 percent increase since the first open enrollment period five years ago.
“We are continuing to see more individuals than ever use Washington Healthplanfinder to connect with health coverage that meets their needs,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, in a news release. “The continual gains in enrollment we have experienced through our first five open enrollment periods reflects our growing position as the state’s most trusted place to shop for and enroll in coverage.”
Statewide, more than 1.7 million people signed up for health coverage through the state exchange. The bulk of those enrollees — 1.5 million people or 88 percent — were in the state’s Medicaid program, Washington Apple Health. But the number of people enrolled in Medicaid was down slightly from last year, with nearly 39,000 fewer enrollees, according to the report.
Medicaid enrollment in Clark County is down, too, but still accounts for the vast majority of exchange enrollees. Locally, 100,182 people signed up for Medicaid coverage. Last year, 104,203 people were enrolled.
Tax credits help
Statewide, the majority of people who purchase health plans (63 percent) received tax credits to lower the cost of their coverage. In Clark County, 81 percent of people purchasing plans qualified for the credits, according to the report.
The average statewide monthly tax credit this year is $263 per person — up $75 from last year. The average monthly premium per person, not including tax credits, is $513. That’s an increase of $140 over last year, according to the report.
This year, most Clark County residents selected silver plans (49 percent) or bronze plans (35 percent), for which the health plan pays for 70 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of costs. And older adults who don’t yet qualify for Medicare — those 55 to 64 years old — accounted for the biggest segment of local enrollees (more than 4,000 people).
In Clark County, three insurers — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Molina Healthcare of Washington and Lifewise Health Plan of Washington — offered 14 plans.
Kaiser Northwest, which offers plans in Clark and Cowlitz counties, had a 99 percent renewal rate among members in 2018. The renewal rate for Molina, which offers plans in 12 counties, was 52 percent. And for Lifewise, with plans in 20 counties, the renewal rate was 43 percent.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 1. Open enrollment for Medicaid, however, runs throughout the year.