- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Officials at the Washington health exchange were hoping 60,000 people would take a few minutes out of their last-minute holiday shopping and sign up to renew their health insurance on Tuesday.

Although 92,500 Washington individuals and families had already taken care of their health insurance business before Tuesday’s deadline to sign up for coverage that goes into effect on Jan. 1, only 70,000 out of 130,000 had renewed the insurance they bought in 2014, the exchange reported.

Last year, during the first open enrollment period since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, nearly 65,000 Washington residents had bought private insurance through the exchange in time for Jan. 1 coverage.

About 22,500 people had signed up for new insurance in Washington state since Nov. 15 this year, but those numbers did not include the final day to sign up and exchange spokesman Michael Marchand expected Tuesday to be a banner day.

The exchange has a goal of 85,000 new insurance policies sold through the exchange by the end of open enrollment on Feb. 15, 2015. Their second goal: sell renewals for all 130,000 insurance policies sold during the first open enrollment.

“I would say we’re cautiously optimistic,” about meeting those goals, Marchand said on Tuesday morning. “We’ll have a better sense after today.”

Officials at the health exchange saw a lot of traffic on the website this weekend, with nearly 7,000 people enrolling between Friday and Sunday. They expected Tuesday would be even busier Tuesday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for signing up for private health insurance that takes effect on Jan. 1. People who want to sign up for insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder, need to pick a plan and pay for it by the end of the work day.

“I forgot” is not going to be an excuse that qualifies for a last minute extension, Marchand warned. But those who have not been able to sign up because of technical problems will be given some extra time beyond Tuesday’s deadline, he added.

Meanwhile, the exchange still hasn’t been able to reach about a thousand people who signed up for insurance near the beginning of the open enrollment period and then had their insurance canceled by a mistake of the technology company that set up the exchange and continues to support its technical operations.

The exchange is withholding payments from Deloitte because that company is responsible for problems with the exchange during this open enrollment period.

Because of an error by Deloitte, 6,000 customers who signed up for insurance had their accounts mistakenly cancelled. The exchange is still trying to contact about 1,000 of those people to get them signed up again.

Exchange spokeswoman Bethany Frey said they are currently in contract negotiations with Deloitte regarding the payments and they do not have any other specifics to share at this time.

Except for that problem, exchange operations have run smoother this year, Marchand said. He credited more customer experience, fewer technical glitches and fewer challenges confirming Medicaid eligibility.

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Online:

Washington Healthplanfinder: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

On the telephone: 1-855-923-4633

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