While the numbers slightly exceeded the 164,000 recorded at the close of first enrollment last year, they still fell short of expectations. Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs Healthplanfinder, had set a goal of 213,000, a number the exchange staff had said was needed for the exchange to be self-sustaining, as required under the law.
Washington was one of two states nationwide in which the number of people buying health insurance through government-run exchanges went down in the second round of open enrollment, which ended in February. The decline was a modest 2 percent — but the state’s goal had been to show a sizable increase.
This all suggests that the vast majority of the post-recession slowdown is attributable to lower economy-wide price inflation along with some temporary noncyclical factors. Of the surprisingly small amount left to be explained by the recession and structural changes, I would attribute the greatest share to the recession.
As of October 17, 2014 small businesses (50 or fewer employees) now have a broader choice of small group insurance plans through the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange. Regrettably the HBE has chosen to push its plans even where those plans may not be the best solution for a small business or its workforce. The fact that they are using public funds to market this approach has raised additional concerns.