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Wash. Health Exchange Reports Strong Enrollment Numbers Despite Early Glitches

Gabriel Spitzer
CEO Richard Onizuka announces the latest enrollment numbers for Washington's health exchange.

After a rocky start, Washington’s health benefits exchange is taking a victory lap. Officials say the exchange got the late surge in enrollments it was counting on, pushing up its final numbers.

The first open enrollment period of Obamacare ended in March, and now that the exchange has processed most of the stragglers, it has released new numbers: 164,062 people enrolled in private plans, with another 423,205 enrolling in Medicaid through March 31. Factor in those now required to use the exchange’s website to re-up their Medicaid, and the number exceeds a cool million.

CEO Richard Onizuka acknowledges that outcome has at times been in doubt. Early glitches kept many people from finishing their applications, but Onizuka says most of the problems have been fixed.

“Nine out of 10 new applications now will get through. So we feel like people can get through the system pretty easily,” he said. “So we feel like that ground has been made up.”

He did concede, though, the exchange may have lost for good some people who ran into those early roadblocks.

About one-fourth of those in private plans are under 35, which is a bit less than the national number.

One figure the exchange has not provided, nor said when they would, is how many of the enrollees were previously uninsured.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.