Washington State: 123K QHPs in first month (includes auto-renewals...sort of?)

Hot off the presses...

Washington Healthplanfinder Sees 123,000 Select Qualified Health Plans in First Month of Open Enrollment

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that more than 123,000 residents have selected Qualified Health Plans for 2016 coverage since the launch of the third open enrollment period on Nov. 1. Approximately 112,000 customers renewed plan selections from the previous year, with automatic renewals accounting for more than 84,000 of the 123,209 plans selected through December 1.

All residents who qualify must select a Qualified Health Plan throughwahealthplanfinder.org by December 23 to receive coverage by Jan. 1, 2016. Data collected from the first two open enrollment periods indicate a significant increase in sign-ups as the Dec. 23 deadline approaches. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2016.

“We are very happy with the number of people who have started or have already completed the plan selection process for 2016 coverage,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Past experience shows that many will wait until the last minute to enroll. It is important for customers to take action by Dec. 23 to ensure that their coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2016.”

Detailed totals on Qualified Health Plan selections (from Nov. 1, 2015 through Dec. 1, 2015):

2016 Open Enrollment Overview (Nov. 1-Dec. 1, 2015)

  • Total Plans Selected 123,209
  • New Customers Selecting Coverage 10,952
  • Renewing Customers Selecting Coverage 112,257
  • Calls Answered at Exchange Call Center 110,656
  • WAHealthplanfinder.org Unique Users 111,720
  • WAHBExchange.org Unique Users 72,351
  • Digital Marketing – Impressions (Nov. 1-Dec. 6) 21,158,705
  • Click-throughs to Healthplanfinder from digital placements (Nov. 1-Dec. 6) 67,331

Interesting: The state exchanges seem to be trending towards "front-loading" their auto-renewals in official enrollment reports this year. First Rhode Island started doing so, then Connecticut, and now Washington State. This is really just a record-keeping quirk; once we get past the deadline for January coverage, all additional QHP selections will be new additions. I'm probably the only person in the country who finds this interesting, actually.

In any event, that's 84,000 auto-renewals (which can still be switched to a different policy before 1/31/16 if the enrollee wishes anyway), 28.2K active renewals, and 11,000 new additions to date.

I actually had a bit of an eyebrow-raising moment when I read the 112K renewal figure with auto-renewals, because according to the WA exchange's previous enrollment report, they had 152.5K effectuated enrollees as of 9/30. IF that 112K figure includes all current enrollees, that would mean that WA managed to lose a whopping 40,000 enrollees (over 26%) between September and December.

HOWEVER, I think what we have here is a case of confusing semantics (which is a good thing in this instance):

The number of plans selected through the first month of the current enrollment period represents an increase from the first month total during open enrollment last year. This increase is due in large part to an easier auto-renewal process that allows renewing customers to maintain their existing coverage going into 2016.

In my mind, "active renewals" refer to anyone who actively goes on the website and chooses a plan for 2016, regardless of whether they switch to a different policy or keep the one they have (as my wife and I did a week or so ago). "AUTO-renewals" refers to a completely automated process by which the exchange itself renews your existing policy for you, without you having to do anything (not even logging into the website).

The wording above makes it sound like the WA exchange is defining "auto-renewal" as "logging into the website, choosing "I want to renew the same policy" and hitting submit".

If this is what they mean, then all 112K renewals are what I would define as "active renewals" (you're still actively going into the website and choosing your 2016 policy). That should mean that there's still a good 40K or so out there to be renewed either "actively" or "passively" (ie, letting the exchange do it for you).

I very much hope I'm correct about this; if I'm wrong, then that would suggest a massive attrition rate in the final quarter of 2015.

Oh, one more thing that's Washington resident-specific:

Unlike past years, customers who have already selected new or renewed plans should be on the lookout for billing information arriving from their insurance company. Payment of premiums must be made directly to the insurance company in time for coverage that starts on January 1. Among the customer experience improvements made prior to the third open enrollment period, the Exchange no longer aggregates premiums or accepts customer premium payments.

Several state exchanges, including Massachusetts and Washington, attempted to handle the actual billing/payments of premiums within their systems as well as enrollments. MA is still doing so, but Washington State has decided it isn't worth the bother, so is joining most other states in offloading it directly to the carriers this year.