New data released on health exchange enrollees

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state has seen a jump in the last month in the number of people signing up for private insurance through the state's health exchange, according to data released Thursday.

The numbers released by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange show that enrollments in the private plans increased from 6,351 in October to 20,144 in November. An additional 53,913 people have completed their applications but need to finish enrolling by paying for their new health coverage that is set to begin in January.

Officials also say that most applications have come from one-person households and nearly 20 percent of the enrollees buying private plans were in the 18- to 34-year-old category. About 40 percent are between the ages of 55 and 64.

Nearly 160,000 Washington residents have signed up for free insurance through Medicaid, state officials said. Fifty-four percent of Medicaid enrollments have been women, and women make up 57 percent of the private plan enrollments.

Nearly 60 percent of people enrolled in the private plans have selected the middle "silver" plan, which covers 70 percent of health expenses, leaving the patient to cover 30 percent. Twenty-nine percent have selected "bronze" plans, which cover 60 percent of the costs, and 11 percent have chosen the top-level "gold" plan, which covers 80 percent of medical costs.

Officials at the exchange are expecting a spike in completed enrollments in December. Their goal is to have 130,000 people buy private insurance in time to have coverage Jan. 1. Payment for coverage that starts in January is due Dec. 23.

In addition to enrolling online, Washington residents can sign up for health insurance in person, on over the phone or by contacting an insurance agent or broker.