WA: Exchange questions the 20,000 who did not renew health insurance

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board celebrated the surge of enrollments in the final week of open enrollment which boosted total enrollment to nearly 160,000. However, the 20,000 individuals that chose not to renew plans this year had leadership questioning the value and cost effectiveness of plans offered.

“Bronze is unconscionable,” said Board Chair Ron Sims, “My son had to go Bronze because he is in graduate school and has no income. That was just a non-performing plan. His whole issue is that the system is so broke why should I get insurance?”

Health plans typically offer three metal levels—Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronze marks the lowest cost, least benefit rich plan.

Sims shared with the Board that a family friend who was enrolled in a Bronze plan, became ill, and realized that “the plan didn’t do much.” She switched to Silver in the next open enrollment but complained that the cost, which totaled $700 per month, was “devastating” to her budget.

Board member Teresa Mosqueda agreed that many of the 20,000 non-renewals could have found healthplanfinder options unaffordable. Average Silver plans range from $220-$350 per month for an individual without subsidies.

Chief of Staff Pam MacEwan posed a different theory that previous enrollees could have ‘churned’ to Medicaid or simply gained coverage through their employers. More than 9,000 individuals who visited healthplanfinder during this open enrollment discovered that they were eligible for Medicaid benefits, according to the final open enrollment report.

MacEwan said that the Exchange has been tracking the situation of those who chose not to reenroll through mailed surveys.

“It would be interesting to look at this report and come up with a retreat or new strategy moving forward,” said Dorothy Teeter, Director of the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA).

The Board reports that overall there were more calls related to Medicaid (41%) than QHP inquiries (31%) during this enrollment period.