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Enrollment in WA's health exchange plans grew in 2022

Courtesy Washington Healthplanfinder
Washington Health Exchange officials say nearly 50,000 people enrolled in the state's new Cascade Care plans last year.

State officials say many people in a post-pandemic world determined it's better to be insured than not.

Business is brisk at Washington’s online health insurance marketplace.

The state reports the number of people who enrolled during the open period that ended last month increased by 37,000 to more than 231,000. That includes a tripling of the number of people in three rural eastern Washington counties - Lincoln, Pend Oreille and Stevens - who bought policies. The state also reports nearly 50,000 enrolled in Washington's new suite of Cascade Care plans.

Michael Marchand from the Health Benefit Exchange says part of the increase is due to people who realized during the pandemic that it’s better to have insurance than not.

“A lot of people are realizing that if I got Covid right now, that would be bad and so I need some insurance, I need some backstop against that, to protect myself and my family and my loved ones from that reality,” he said.

Marchand also credits people who are becoming more sophisticated shoppers.

“I think back 10 years ago where it was hard to, like if I stopped the average person on the street, they maybe didn’t even understand what a deductible was or what a co-pay was, but now we’re actually seeing people shop,” he said.

He says the number of people who switched health plans this year increased by 40% over last year. He says many at the lower and middle ends of the income scale have found they qualify for government subsidies and can now afford coverage that they couldn’t before.

“You’re telling me that for $120 a year I can cover myself and my family and be in a good place financially after my deductible and I would remain healthy,” he said. “That’s a pretty compelling argument right now..”

Marchand says more than three-fourths of health exchange enrollees receive some form of government subsidy.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.