Washington State: 222.6K QHPs thru 12/15; final tally down 8.3% year over year

(sigh) Drat. The state-based exchange enrollment reports keep on rolling, but I'm afraid the streak of outperforming last year's numbers has come to a screeching halt in Washington State:

Washington Healthplanfinder Sign-Ups Surge Past 222,000 In Strong Final Weekend
More than 11,000 plans selected during open enrollment’s closing hours, additional sign-ups expected this week

December 17, 2018

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced that a total of 222,636 customers selected a 2019 health plan through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, by last Saturday’s midnight deadline to enroll. The total number of plan selections is only slightly lower than the 242,000 sign-ups posted during the 2018 open enrollment period that stretched one month longer.

The final two days of the six-week open enrollment period saw more than 11,000 Washingtonians sign up for coverage before the Dec. 15 cutoff. Several hundred more plan selections are expected to arrive as customers who started the application process before close of open enrollment finalize their applications for 2019 coverage. The Exchange has also experienced a 20 percent increase in the number of current customers renewing their coverage.

OK, so the final tally should be more like 223,000...which would still be down around 8.3% from last year's official total of 243,227 QHP selections (that's the hard number according to CMS...there's often slight discrepancies between the state exchange number and CMS's number as clerical errors are corrected and other last-minute additions/subtractions are thrown into the mix).

“We experienced remarkable volume in the days before the deadline from residents signing up for health coverage,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Our showing during open enrollment reaffirms that Washington state’s individual health insurance market remains strong at a time when other exchanges and marketplaces are experiencing declines.”

  • OE6 (Nov. 1, 2018-Dec. 15, 2018) / OE5 (Nov. 1, 2017-Jan. 15, 2018)
  • Total Health Plan Selections: 222,636 / 242,850
  • New Selections 39,237 / 78,834
  • Renewing Selections 183,399 / 164,016

Washington's state exchange stuck it out for an extra month last year...but this year decided to drop back to the same 6-week enrollment period as most other states, and it looks like that may have made a difference. On the other hand, Washington's 12/15 mid-period deadline saw 230,000 QHP selections last year, which means they still ended up about 3.2% behind even if you disregard the extra month last year, so it's hard to say.

Of course, Washington was also one of the few states which saw double-digit premium hikes for unsubsidized enrollees this year, which also likely played a role.

The Exchange’s Customer Support Center handled more than 20,000 calls over the weekend and the Washington Healthplanfinder website welcomed 90,000 visitors. In light of the extraordinary demand leading into the deadline, the Exchange is providing any customers who may have encountered difficulties while signing up until this Thursday, Dec. 20 to finalize their health and dental plans selections for next year.

“The additional time this week is an opportunity for individuals and families who were not able to sign up for a plan to take those critical final steps,” said MacEwan. “We urge those who have not yet secured their 2019 coverage to call our Customer Support Center by Dec. 20 and request to enroll in coverage that starts Jan. 1 of next year.”

The Exchange’s toll-free Customer Support Center (1-855-923-4633) will host additional operating hours over the next two weeks to accommodate those individuals who need to finalize their coverage. The center will be responding to customer inquiries from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. through this Thursday.

Customers who have already finished signing up in a 2019 health and dental plan should now prepare to activate their coverage by paying their first month’s premium. The Exchange is working with participating insurance carriers to ensure those who have selected a plan receive their invoices and make their first premium payment. Information on submitting a premium payment is available by clicking the “Your Payment Options” button on the www.wahealthplanfinder.org homepage.

Reminders: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice of 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year.