WA: Legislators grill Health Benefit Exchange, consider move to HealthCare.gov

Washington State House Representatives confronted Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board members about ongoing technical issues affecting consumers and even broached the topic of moving the state to the federal exchange at the Dec. 5 House Healthcare and Wellness Committee hearing.

An additional technical error came to light yesterday which affected tax credit calculations on the WAHealthPlanFinder website. The Exchange is still identifying how many individuals are affected by the newest glitch, which comes on the heels of the 6,000 accounts which were erroneously canceled on Dec. 3.

Deloitte, who manages the IT for HealthplanFinder, has assumed full costs incurred by the most recent error. The Exchange said that it has been working on a fix for people with unpaid balances and will be running additional tests this weekend.

Representatives were not so accepting of the news. On the topic of accountability, Rep. Joe Schmick (R-9) asked what disciplinary actions had been taken on the Board and claimed that there was a need for “major change,” going as far as asking who had been fired.

Rep. Paul Harris (R-17) and Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-24) characterized the Exchange’s issues with insurance carriers as bad business.

“I can’t fathom 15% of my customers calling me every day because of a billing issue,” said Rep. Harris.

Rep. Matt Manweller (R-13) asked to consider the pros and cons of going back to the federal exchange. The cost to the consumer would likely be about the same, according to a figure by Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka.

The Exchange reports that Healthplanfinder has successfully enrolled 3,500 previously uninsured individuals in Qualified Health Plans (QHP) and that figure is expected to rise towards the end of December and March as open enrollment deadlines approach. 35,000 individuals have scheduled payments for January. The Healthplanfinder site has 16,000 daily visits.

Medicaid enrollment is also high with more than 465,000 new adults enrolled, far exceeding expected results for Medicaid expansion.

Pam McEwan, Exchange Chief of Staff, reported that Healthplanfinder has added resources to the call center in the form of “client specialists” to directly handle consumer issues. McEwan also noted that there is a complaint form on the website that customers can access.

“That’s so reactionary, we need to be more proactive,” replied Rep. Eileen Cody (D-District 34).