ACA en­roll­ment is up statewide

Tri-City Herald - - News - BY RYAN BLETHEN Seattle Times

De­spite changes to the Af­ford­able Care Act dur­ing the past cou­ple of years, state health in­sur­ance of­fi­cials are op­ti­mistic that the state’s health in­sur­ance ex­change will flour­ish in 2019.

Since en­roll­ment for

2019 be­gan Nov. 1., about

190,000 peo­ple have signed up for health in­sur­ance through the Wash­ing­ton Health Ben­e­fit Ex­change, which is about

5 per­cent more than the same pe­riod last year.

Michael Marc­hand, spokesman and chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for the Wash­ing­ton Health Ben­e­fit Ex­change, said the rea­son for the rise to this point is more peo­ple are re­new­ing their health in­sur­ance through the ex­change.

Un­like last year, en­roll­ment be­gan with­out Con­gress try­ing to re­peal the ACA. Though Con­gress took a year off from re­peal ef­forts, other ac­tions taken by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Con­gress could af­fect the ACA.

The over­haul of the na­tion’s tax sys­tem elim­i­nated the in­di­vid­ual-man­date penalty, which was ad­min­is­tered through tax fil­ings. This will be the sec­ond sign-up pe­riod since Pres­i­dent Trump re­scinded the fed­eral govern­ment’s pay­ments to re­duce costs for qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants in the ACA.

“While both of those is­sues are a cause for con­ster­na­tion for the in­dus­try, the pre­dom­i­nant feel­ing is that the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket and con­sumer has made peace with them over the past year,” Marc­hand said.

Marc­hand said ad­just­ments in the state ex­change’s sil­ver plans have ad­dressed the loss of the cost-re­duc­tion pay­ments.

Wash­ing­ton’s in­di­vid­ual-mar­ket cus­tomers will again see a pre­mium in­crease for 2019. The Of­fice of the In­sur­ance Com­mis­sioner OK’d an aver­age 13.6 per­cent hike for the 74 plans on the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket. Health in­sur­ers were seek­ing an aver­age 19.4 per­cent hike. Pre­mi­ums have risen the four years prior to 2019, from 1 per­cent in 2015; inch­ing up to 4 per­cent in 2016; 11 per­cent for 2017 and 24 per­cent this year.

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