Report details state health plan enrollment

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 21, 2014 

About 2,390 people in Benton and Franklin counties have enrolled in private health plans through the state's new health insurance exchange, according to a report released Friday.

The report from Washington Healthplanfinder covers the four-month period since Oct. 1, when open enrollment started, through the end of January.

The deadline to buy a qualified health plan for coverage that takes effect this year is March 31.

In all, about 89,240 people in Washington have enrolled in a qualified plan through the exchange.

Of those, about 20,230 are between the ages of 18 and 34 -- an age group that officials are particularly trying to reach.

A new ad campaign features a fictional rap duo interviewing real people who've enrolled in coverage, and the exchange also will conduct outreach at hockey and roller derby events around the state, including in the Mid-Columbia.

More than 254,000 people in Washington also have become newly covered by Medicaid -- the state-federal health insurance program for the low income -- through a federally funded expansion, including about 98,500 people ages 19 to 35, according to Friday's report.

In Benton and Franklin counties, those newly covered by Medicaid total 10,251 as of Jan. 31, the report said. It didn't provide an age breakdown on county-level figures.

Carol Moser, executive director of the Benton-Franklin Community Health Alliance, is a trained in-person assister who can provide enrollment help.

She's seen a mix of ages, she said, noting it's been encouraging to see young people signing up. She recalled one young woman who cried when she got coverage. "There are a lot of people out there who've been sitting on the edge waiting for something," Moser said.

Medicaid enrollment is ongoing, with no open enrollment period.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, most Americans must have health insurance this year or face fines.

Washington's health care exchange has fared better than the federal site, which has been notoriously plagued by problems.

But there still have been speed bumps, including state website problems and a tax-credit calculation error that affected about 8,000 applicants.

w Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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