Washington State: @WAPlanFinder announces 182,000 #ACA exchange enrollees in first 4 days...for a simple reason

The Washington ACA exchange has reported their initial numbers, and like Connecticut, the top figure is a bit misleading: 182,000 Washingtonians enrolled in the first four days!...except that, again, 99% of these are current exchange enrollees having their auto-renewals front-loaded:

Washington Healthplanfinder reminds Washingtonians that open enrollment has started, encouraging those seeking health coverage to visit WAhealthplanfinder.org to shop, choose, and save on health and dental coverage.

“Our focus remains on encouraging customers to review their options and sign up for coverage that meets their needs,” said Exchange Chief Executive Officer, Pam MacEwan. “The 2021 open enrollment period has begun, and residents should use this opportunity to access coverage that will last them all year.”

Since Nov. 1, over 182,000 Washingtonians have signed up for 2021 coverage, including about 2,400 new customers. Among the new customers, 30% have selected new Cascade Care plans. These plans offer deductibles that are on average $1,000 less than other plans, and cover more services prior to meeting a deductible, including primary care visits, mental health services, and generic drugs. Customers will know they are choosing a Cascade or Cascade Select plan, thanks to the newly designed Cascade Care logo. The name of each plan will indicate whether it is a Cascade (standard) or Cascade Select (public option) plan.

On the one hand, 30% selecting the new Public Option sounds pretty impressive. On the other hand, that's 30% of 2,400 people, which is only around 720 enrollees to start off with. Furthermore, it sounds like it's even lower than that since "Cascade Care" includes both standard private policies and the actual Public Option plans. It could potentially be 500 people or fewer to begin with.

Still, it's a start.

In addition, as I noted re. Connecticut, let's look at the retention rate. 182,000 - 2,400 = around 179,600 current enrollees. The press release says it's "over" 182K, so let's call it an even 180,000 current exchange enrollees being auto-renewed for 2021.

The 2020 OEP tally was 212,590. That means WA has an 84.7% net retention rate, give or take. In 2017, WA had 166,951 effectuated enrollees in December compared to 225,594 OEP enrollments, or 74.0%. In 2018, they had 190,446 effectuated enrollees in December compared to 243,227 OEP enrollments, or 78.3%.

Again, clearly the COVID-19 pandemic is the major factor here. Back in early May, the exchange announced that 19,500 new enrollees had enrolled via a Special Enrollment Period, including 7,000 who took advantage of their special COVID-19 SEP...and I'd imagine most of the other 12,500 SEP enrollees were also folks who had lost their employer-based coverage due to the pandemic as well. If you assume 15K of all SEP enrollees are COVID-related, that's over 7% of the total retention difference right there.

“This year is there are more ways to live well and stay well during this uncertain time,” said Michael Marchand, Chief Marketing Officer. “Washingtonians are concerned about their health, safety, and well-being, and are seeking health coverage that embodies how they are living today. Our new Cascade Care plans give customers an opportunity to find and enroll in a product that can meet their needs.”

For those seeking coverage starting January 1, customers need to enroll in a plan by December 15. Those who enroll after that deadline and before January 15 will have a coverage start date of February 1.

Washington Healthplanfinder offers a wide range of resources to help people navigate their coverage options – including in-person enrollment centers, virtual video or phone assistance, and the WAPlanfinder Mobile App. Anyone requiring help signing up for coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder may contact the Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633; TTY: 855-627-9604. They may also contact an Exchange certified Navigator, Broker, or Enrollment center who can answer insurance questions and help with enrollment. Free help from local experts is accessible via the WAPlanfinder Mobile App or by visiting www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

During the 2021 open enrollment period, the Customer Support Center will be open 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Monday – Friday. Additionally, extended hours scheduled:

November

  • Saturday, November 7, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Veteran’s Day, Wednesday, November 11, 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday November 14, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 27, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

December

  • Saturday, December 5, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 12, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 13, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Monday, December 14, 7:30 a.m. – 11:59 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 15, 7:30 a.m. – 11:59 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 24, 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 31, 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

January

  • Saturday, January 9, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 14 7:30 a.m. – 11:59 p.m.
  • Friday, January 15 7:30 a.m. – 11: 59 p.m.

Reminders: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid).