By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — Washington state has signed more people up for health insurance than any state other than New York and California since open enrollment for health care reform began Oct. 1, according to new federal and state statistics released on Wednesday.
Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 7, more than 9,000 people selected a private health insurance plan through the marketplace in Washington state. Another 68,532 found out they were eligible for free insurance under Medicaid. And another 81,166 have completed applications for insurance, but have not finished the sign up process.
Oregon’s exchange, known as Cover Oregon, is one of those programs struggling to sign up applicants. After a little more than a month, a small fraction of 8,800 paper applications had been processed and no one has been enrolled. Oregon was dead last among 48 states reporting the number of people whose applications had been checked to see whether they qualify for Medicaid or private insurance.
Cover Oregon has been plagued by technical problems preventing the website from accurately determining whether applicants are eligible for Medicaid. The organization has resorted to hiring 400 people to process applications by hand.
Numbers coming in from California show that much larger state has nearly twice as many people going through the process right now and a total of more than 35,000 completed applications for private insurance.
New York’s numbers are not as complete, but that state is reporting more than 16,000 insurance sign-ups. The next most successful state marketplaces after Washington are in Kentucky and Connecticut.
Numbers from the states using the federal marketplace all trail behind Washington and these others.
The Obama Administration reports fewer than 27,000 people signed up for private health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on the federal website.
States running their own enrollment systems like Washington signed up more than 79,000 people for private insurance.
Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the Health Benefit Exchange during the first enrollment period ending in March.
State officials are glad they have overcome early problems with the state exchange, but not everything has been rosy since initial computer problems.
During the last week in October, officials with the exchanged announced that 8,000 insurance applicants erroneously qualified for higher tax credits because of a system error. Those mistakes were just a few dollars off for some, but averaged $100 a month.
The exchange has posted notices online to the affected applications and will be mailing letters to them as well.