State health exchange still adrift, problem-filled

When Obamacare’s initial enrollment period opened in October 2013, the national exchange website was a disaster. As one of the states with its own exchange website, Washington’s site looked comparatively good – in that it wasn’t offline all the time.

Problems persist
After that problem-filled start, Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange got to work on making the 2014-15 enrollment period a smoother process. Our state’s exchange still has many problems though, including customers who signed up only to discover they were not actually enrolled in an insurance plan and customers who were billed multiple times.

In fact, last year some customers found they’d been billed twice for one month’s coverage. This year, some customers were triple-billed. That is not progress.

Enrollment goals not met, budget request criticized
The state Health Benefit Exchange set an enrollment goal this year of 213,000 private health insurance sign-ups. At the end of the regular enrollment period, it was 50,000 short of that goal. Now the exchange has extended the enrollment period, hoping more people sign up when they realize they need to avoid Obamacare penalties for not having coverage.

The enrollment shortfall is bad news for the exchange’s budget. The agency is supposed to move off of state funding from the general fund and become self-sustaining. Its budget is supposed to rely on taxes charged on health premiums on plans bought through the exchange.

Now the exchange’s budget itself is under fire for being vague. The agency came into this session asking for $125 million in state funding. Legislators pressed exchange officials for further details about its budget request, because they weren’t sure what they were being asked to fund. Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48) said, “Right now, the Legislature isn’t happy.”

It’s clear that the Health Benefit Exchange needs to step up its performance on many fronts. This beleaguered agency is not performing at a level the taxpayers deserve.
-Rob McKenna

The following two tabs change content below.
Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.