Washington State: WA HealthPlanFinder wraps up OE7 w/212.6K QHPs, down 3.7% y/y

Last month the Washington Healthplan Finder, which bumped out their 2020 Open Enrollment Period deadline by a couple of weeks to 12/30, announced that they had enrolled 210,000 people in medical Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) as of 12/19.

Today they issued their final report through the extended 12/30 deadline. While they did tack on a few thousand more people, total enrollments still came up about 3.7% short of the previous year:

Washington Healthplanfinder Sees More Than 212,000 Sign Ups During 2020 Open Enrollment Period


Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) today announced more than 212,000 customers selected a 2020 health plan through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. The total number was slightly lower, 3.8 percent, than the nearly 221,000 selections last year.

Interest among new customers remained high with 41,000 new enrollees, almost 1,000 more new customers signing up this year when compared to last year. The number of returning customers decreased by about 10,000, contributing to a slight overall decline for the second consecutive year. While open enrollment is closed, customers who experience a qualifying event (such as marriage, birth of a child or a move) can still qualify to shop for coverage.

“We are pleased that preliminary qualified plan selection data shows relative stability in the Exchange market,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “However, we still need to be diligent in reaching out to potential customers who face access obstacles, particularly younger adults and customers who no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage.”

On average, customers have slightly lower premiums this year compared to last year. About 60% of customers continue to receive a federal premium tax subsidy to help lower the cost of their coverage, while 40% of customers are non-subsidized.

  • OE7 (Nov. 1 – Dec. 30, 2019) / OE6 (Nov. 1 – Dec. 28, 2018)
  • QHPs: 212,590 / 220,954
  • New Customers: 41,690 / 40,819
  • Returning Customers: 170,900 / 180,135

New enrollments were up 2.1% year over year, but renewing enrollments were down 5.1%.

According to the press release, total QHPs are actually down 3.8%, but the official CMS report for OE6 put WA slightly lower than the 220,954 figure (220,765), so it's actually -3.7%.

Among this year’s trends were increases in shopping activity among Exchange customers, switching plans to bronze level plan selections, and mobile app utilization. Overall, silver level coverage remained the most popular among Exchange customers, 45 percent. An increased number of customers, 43 percent, selected more affordable bronze coverage, almost half of these were new enrollees demonstrating customers shopped for lower and more affordable premiums.  Higher-cost gold level plan selections held at 12 percent. The popularity of the Exchange’s mobile app also continued to grow, with 21 percent more customers submitting applications through WAPlanfinder as compared to last year. The mobile app has exceeded 175,000 downloads.

“Based on the numbers of those that selected bronze products, it is clear affordability continues to be one of the biggest issues facing people seeking coverage on the individual market,” said MacEwan. “That said, this consumer behavior is a good sign given the new shopping options customers will have when Cascade Care plans become available for 2021 coverage.”

Cascade Care plans will provide high-value options for Exchange customers starting next year. These health plans will have lower deductibles, more services covered before the deductible and will include a standard benefit design. The Exchange is currently working with the Health Care Authority, Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the state’s insurance companies and providers to build these plans and bring them to market for the 2021 coverage year.

"Cascade Care", remember, is Washington's name for their upcoming first-in-the-nation "Public Option", which is really more of a quasi-public option since they're still contracting with a private insurance carrier to administer it. It's more like managed Medicaid or Medicare Advantage, except for the individual ACA exchange market. We'll see...

Customers who signed up for 2020 health and dental coverage should prepare to receive and make payment of 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 that important first premium payment. Information on submitting a premium payment is available by clicking the “Your Payment Options” button on the Washington Healthplanfinder’s 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.