Washington state health exchange is working again

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2014 2:36 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state's health insurance exchange was back up and running Sunday after shutting down for a day because of a glitch involving tax credit calculations.

Officials shut down Washington Healthplanfinder soon after open enrollment began Saturday because its quality control team reported that the system wasn't receiving correct 2015 tax credit information from the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Engineers spent the day fixing the problem and then tested the fix throughout the evening to make sure it worked, exchange chief executive Richard Onizuka said in a new release. At 8 a.m. Sunday, the system was working properly.

"Consumers expect to be selecting and purchasing health coverage with the correct information," Onizuka said. "While we recognize that this Saturday was an inconvenience, being able to provide correct information to our customers is paramount to what we do."

About 2,000 people were using the exchange each hour during the two hours before it shut down Saturday. The exchange identified fewer than 800 customers who had their eligibility determined incorrectly and fewer than 150 hundred customers who had scheduled payment based on incorrect information.

"We will be contacting each person to provide them with their accurate tax credit amount," Onizuka said.

The speed with which officials uncovered the problem prevented thousands of consumers from running into issues with their applications, he said.

Open enrollment for health care insurance continues through Feb. 15, and officials hope as many as 85,000 people sign up in Washington state this season. They also hope all of the about 145,000 people who bought insurance during the first open enrollment period, which began Oct. 1, 2013, will renew for another year.

Those who run the exchange had been hoping their computer system would handle traffic better than it did last year, when it shut down and rejected applications for reasons like a hyphen in a last name. About a thousand people who bought insurance the first time around are still having problems getting their payments credited and that money transferred to their insurance companies.

People who do not buy insurance will have to pay a fine when they file their income taxes. Those fines start at $95 or 1 percent of 2014 household income, but the minimum fine in 2015 will be $325 per uninsured person or 2 percent of household income.

Consumers will find more choices this time around, with more insurance plans and more companies on the state's exchange. Rates have gone up slightly overall, but some people will find cheaper insurance.

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Online:

Washington Healthplanfinder: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/

For help, sign-up events and information: http://wahbexchange.org/