WA: OIC Report Offers Benchmark Numbers on Uninsured Pre-Exchange

WA OIC

The number of Washington residents lacking health insurance grew to 990,000 at the end of 2012, according to a new report by the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC). That was an increase of more than 44,000 uninsured residents since 2010.

The OIC report was released on Jan. 30 and provides the latest numbers on the state’s uninsured.

The new numbers provide a benchmark for measuring reductions in the number of uninsured that are anticipated as a result of the full implementation this year of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In Olympia, legislators have been pressing officials at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange for estimates of how many individuals who have enrolled in coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder were previously uninsured.

During a Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing this week, lawmakers pressed for information on how many of the newly enrolled are newly insured and how many had coverage before.

Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka

Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka

Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka told the committee that those numbers probably won’t be available for another six to eight months. “It’s hard to collect that kind of data,” he said.

The OIC predicts that the percentage of Washington residents under age 65 who are uninsured will drop from 16.5 percent in 2012 to 6 percent by 2016.

Its analysis found that the agriculture-based counties of central Washington have the highest rates of uninsured, including Yakima (24.1 percent), Grant (20.4 percent), and Chelan (19.9 percent).

The OIC estimates that approximately 805,400 Washington residents will be eligible for free or lower-cost coverage through the state’s exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, and approximately 735,000 currently uninsured residents will have access to coverage that is as comprehensive as plans offered by most employers.

One result will be that the amount of uncompensated care will decrease by 25 to 40 percent, according to the OIC. Currently, charity care and unpaid medical bills amount to about $1 billion a year in Washington.

The OIC also found that nearly 80 percent of residents who bought individual policies in 2012 had plans that covered less than half of their medical costs, meaning they were “underinsured.”