Error scrambles health insurance premiums

About 8,000 state residents will get new tax credits

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CBH Columbia Basin Herald Local News

OLYMPIA - About 8,000 Washington Health Benefit Exchange applicants will get smaller federal tax credits for their health insurance than originally anticipated because of computer problems on the federal and state health insurance websites.

The average difference is about $100 per month, or $1,200 per year, according to a statement from Richard Onizuka, the exchange chief executive officer.

People affected by the error will receive a letter from the state including the updated information on tax credits, according to a press release from health exchange administrators. Officials are discouraging people from calling the state customer support center for information.

The information also will be available online at the health exchange website, through the customer's account, the press release said.

The problem affected people who didn't qualify for Medicaid but did qualify for a tax credit, Bethany Frey, public information officer for Washington Health Plan Finder, said. The tax credits are calculated using income data; the state submitted some monthly income data, and the federal government website thought it was yearly data, Frey said.

Frey said the state did not have a county-by-county breakdown to show how many people were affected in each county. The effect depended on income, Frey said, so people who reported higher incomes saw a greater impact.

Tax credit recipients must fix the problem themselves by going back to the exchange, Frey said. "They basically have to come in and re-complete the shopping experience," she said.

People who have already selected a plan should sign into the health exchange account and select "enrolled" on the menu, Frey said. People who entered income information but didn't choose a plan should hit the "select a plan" option, she said.

The repaired site will calculate the new tax credit, as applied to the monthly premium cost. People will have the option of confirming their plan selection or choosing a new plan, Frey said.

The first premium must be paid by Dec. 23 in order for coverage to begin by Jan. 1, she said.

"Like any IT project of this scale, our staff will continue to identify issues that result in challenges for individuals completing applications," the press release said. "We are currently evaluating our testing processes moving forward to ensure we avoid similar issues in the future."

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