Wash. Health Exchange Looking To Skew Younger

Jan 9, 2014

A diverse group of people have signed up for private health insurance on Washington's state-run exchange, but officials say they still need more young people on board. 

As of Jan. 2, some 71,205 people had enrolled in private plans on Washington's health insurance exchange, a good deal less than the goal of 130,000. But Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said it’s still on the low end of the expected range.

Perhaps more important than the overall number is the makeup of that group: About one fifth is between 18 and 34 years old. That's not bad, Onizuka said, but not good enough. He said recruiting more young people will be a priority in the next two months. 

"We're getting ready to make an announcement next week about a partisanship with a concert promoter. The Young Invincibles, the group that built the app for us, has updated the app. So there's a lot of things that we're pushing on to try to get younger folks to participate in the exchange," he said. 

Insurance companies need plenty of young, healthy people in the market to offset older, sicker consumers. About 35 percent of those on private plans through the Washington exchange are between 55 and 64. 

Another 72,178 have completed applications for private insurance but still owe their first premium. They have until Jan. 15 to pay up, but Onizika said many of them have likely gotten coverage by now from outside the exchange.

Medicaid enrollment has outpaced participation in the private plans; 177,065 people have begun new coverage through the exchange's website, WAHealthPlanFinder.org