Last-minute WA Healthplanfinder enrollees face long wait times


by KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 6:27 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 31 at 7:01 PM

For Andy Miller of Snohomish, trying to enroll for healthcare insurance Monday required patience, and perseverance.

The 46 year old father of two got laid off from his job two weeks ago, and admits he waited too long to finish his Washington Healthplanfinder application.

On Monday, when he finally got through on the helpline, a computerized voice told him his estimated wait time was 140 minutes.

"I'm overwhelmed at this point. I wish it had been done earlier," he said laughing.

There is a last-minute push to get Americans to sign up for private health insurance under the President's Affordable Care Act. The deadline to enroll for coverage is Monday, March 31.

In Washington, the state set up Washington Healthplanfinder to help guide people through this process. The website is up and running, but that wasn't the case earlier Monday. The website was shut down overnight for several hours for scheduled maintenance.

With Monday's deadline, the state is preparing for the last-minute rush of people trying to enroll for coverage. Earlier this month, the state said there were 600 customer service representatives manning call centers for those with questions.

The latest numbers show 125,000 people have registered for coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

The penalty for those who don't sign up and go without health insurance is $95 or one percent of their income, whichever is higher.

According to Washington Healthplanfinder, people must complete the entire enrollment process and submit payment by 11:59 p.m. Monday.

If there is a technical issue with the website and people are unable to to complete this process, the state will take a look at this on case-by-case basis.

But spokesman Michael Marchand is quick to add: the people who run Washington Healthplanfinder can tell who has been making an effort. So people should not expect more time if they've just gone to the website signed on and then given up.

Marchand expects at least 11,000 people will get more time to finish their applications.

"For people who, on no fault of their own, were unable to complete their application, we're going to be able to likely work with them to make sure they get coverage," said Marchand.

If people miss the deadline, their next chance to enroll is November 15. Washingtonians who qualify for Medicaid can enroll at any time.

Related: Health Reform Resources