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Hundreds of thousands obtain new health coverage under state health exchange

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SEATTLE — More than 600,000 Washington residents have obtained new health insurance coverage through the state's health care exchange, state officials announced Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and others recognized efforts in the state to bring health insurance to people who could not have afforded it in the past, as the Washington Health Benefit Exchange released new figures.

"There are 600,000 reasons to celebrate: 600,000 Washingtonians waking up this morning with the security of their own health," Inslee said at a news conference in Seattle on Wednesday.

Most of that number came from people who signed up for Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled.

About 164,000 people signed up for private health plans through the exchange through March 31. Overall, more than 1 million people have now accessed health insurance through the Washington healthfinder website.

As part of that total, more than 450,000 adults obtained new coverage under Medicaid, according to numbers released separately that reflect enrollments through April 17. Two-thirds of those, or about 300,000, were newly eligible for the program, while the rest were previously eligible but did not sign up until the open enrollment period. An additional 455,000 renewed their Medicaid coverage through the state's exchange.

Washington is one of more than two dozen states that elected to expand Medicaid coverage.

"We come into the home stretch with some of the highest enrollment counts in the entire country, and that's because the Affordable Care Act is working," said Murray, a Democrat.

PHOTO: A chart showing the average premium cost and tax credit data for people who enrolled in the Washington state healthcare exchange is shown at an event Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in Seattle to highlight the success of the Washington state healthcare exchange in getting hundreds of thousands of people into new health coverage, including about 450,000 who obtained new Medicaid coverage. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A chart showing the average premium cost and tax credit data for people who enrolled in the Washington state healthcare exchange is shown at an event Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in Seattle to highlight the success of the Washington state healthcare exchange in getting hundreds of thousands of people into new health coverage, including about 450,000 who obtained new Medicaid coverage. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

State officials said Wednesday that they did not yet know how many people are still uninsured in the state.

One-fourth of those who signed up for new plans are young adults age 18 to 34, according to the new data from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Many young people appeared to have waited to sign up, with a huge enrollment spike from the 18 to 34 age group coming in the final weeks of open enrollment.

The state has previously reported that 147,000 people signed up for private health coverage, but said the total grew to 164,062 as officials finalized applications after the March 31 deadline. Open enrollment began last October.

Most who signed up for private plans were single, the state data shows. More women had enrolled through the exchange than men. About two-thirds of people who began the application process eventually enrolled in a plan.

And the majority of those who enrolled in private plans selected the "silver" plan, which covers 70 percent of health expenses, leaving the patient to cover 30 percent. Meanwhile, less than 10 percent chose the top-level "gold" plan, which covers 80 percent of medical costs.

About three-fourths of people qualified for a tax credit to lower their monthly premium. The average tax credit they received was $276 a month, and the average cost of a private health care plan with a tax credit was $100 a month, officials said.


La Corte reported from Olympia, Washington

Online:

Washington health exchange: http://wahealthplanfinder.org

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at an event Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in Seattle to highlight the success of the Washington state healthcare exchange in getting hundreds of thousands of people into new health coverage, including about 450,000 who obtained new Medicaid coverage. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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