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1,390 on Peninsula get 'Obamacare' in first month
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

Nearly 1,400 early birds on the North Olympic Peninsula signed up for health insurance on Washington's health care exchange in October, according to data released by the state Friday.


In the first month after health care reform launched Oct. 1, a combined 1,390 in Clallam and Jefferson counties completed new insurance sign-ups through Washington Healthplanfinder.


Most of those sign-ups were for the free insurance offered for low-income individuals through Medicaid.

Health care plans under the Affordable Care Act take effect Jan. 1.


In Clallam County, 691 signed up for insurance through Medicaid, 145 received a tax credit for a private policy, and 39 others found a private plan with no tax credit.


In Jefferson County, 424 signed up through Medicaid, 69 received a tax credit for a qualified health plan, and 22 found a plan without financial assistance.


Statewide, 57,730 insurance sign-ups were completed. Of those, 51,368 signed up for Medicaid.

State officials predict those numbers will spike, with 72,136 applications somewhere in the process and 21,671 who have chosen a plan but still need to pay for it.


“Those numbers are growing every day,” Washington Health Benefit Exchange spokesman Michael Marchand told The Associated Press.


The Washington Health Benefit Exchange said nearly 500,000 individuals visited www.Wahealthplanfinder.org in October. Of those, more than 150,000 are fully enrolled, completed an application that is awaiting payment or started an application.


“We are pleased with the enrollment and completed-applications data represented in both Medicaid and Qualified Health Plans,” said Washington Health Benefit Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka in a statement.


“With 6,000 enrolled in Qualified Health Plans and another 21,000 individuals on applications awaiting payment due in December, this is a good start toward reaching our target of 130,000 with coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014.”

Washington Healthplanfinder operates separately from the federal health insurance marketplace, www.Healthcare.gov.


Statewide, looking at just the private insurance enrollments, 37 percent were in the 55-64 age group, nearly 20 percent were in the 45-54 age group, 19 percent came from the 35-44 age group, nearly 18 percent came from the 26-34 group, and about 5 percent came from the 18-25 group.


The numbers were spread out more evenly among Medicaid enrollments, with the biggest segments for free insurance in the younger-than-18 and 26-34 groups.


No demographic breakdown was available for individual counties.


“Young adults are a critical target for us, and it is great to see that 6,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have signed up for health coverage in just the first month,” Marchand said.


Most of those young adults will get free insurance through Medicaid. Only 328 in that age range signed up for private policies.


Marchand said the state will continue to target young adults at concert venues and through mobile advertising.

The geographic diversity of sign-ups mirrors population distribution across the state. For example, one-quarter of sign-ups so far are in King County, followed by about 11 percent in Pierce County and more than 10 percent in Spokane County.


Every county had some sign-ups, although some have pretty small numbers, such as 13 in Garfield County and 38 in Columbia.



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