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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

Washington exchange struggles with service

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Public exchange plans in Washington state are having trouble getting their enrollees pay for coverage.

Managers of some state-based exchanges, including Covered California, have reported that as many as 85 percent of their individual “qualified health plan” enrollees have paid the premiums.

At the Washington Healthplan Finder exchange, only about 112,000, or 61 percent, of the 184,000 residents who had selected commercial QHP coverage earlier this month had paid for coverage.

The staff of the exchange has included those numbers in an enrollment update included in a meeting packet. Members of the board of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, the parent of the Washington Healthplan Finder program, have scheduled a regular board meeting for Thursday.

Supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act public exchange program have cited Washington state as an example of a state with an exchange enrollment system that has worked reasonably well, but status update figures show that the  exchange has faced glitches of its own.

The exchange has increased the number of customer service representatives in its call center to 500 in February, up from 135 in October.

The exchange staff said it has been able to connect about 93 percent of the callers with a rep this month.

The number of consumers who have selected QHPs in the past week is about four times the average for the overall individual QHP open enrollment season, which started Oct. 1 and is set to end March 31, officials sidy.

But callers still have to wait an average of more than a minute just to go through an initial sorting process, then another 49 minutes to get through a “specialty queue” and talk to people who might be able to solve their problems.

At the beginning of the month, about 15,000 QHP applications were stuck in the processing pipeline because of issues such as problems with automated identity verification. 

Exchange managers say they have taken steps such as making more use of internal client specialists and brokers to help the stalled applicants.

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