An overwhelming desire for health insurance, as deadline looms

More people than ever are buying health insurance through Washington’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. And with the surge in interest, King County’s network of health insurance navigators is offering extra hours to help people find the right plan for their needs (see below).

In Washington state, because we operate our own Affordable Care Act exchange (and don’t depend on the federal exchange), residents have an extended deadline to sign up – through January 15, 2018.

Heading into this final week, after ten weeks of Open Enrollment, more people already have selected plans than in any previous year – in less time.

  • This year in King County: 90,000 selected plans by Jan. 9, 2018 (after ten weeks)
  • Last year in King County: 79,850 selected plans by Jan. 31, 2017 (after 13 weeks)

While many people enroll on their own, through the website, many others need to discuss their options. A network of community organizations helps people navigate through the online insurance comparison tool.

“We are seeing a lot more people with more intense questions this year,” says Daphne Pie, manager of the Access & Outreach program of Public Health—Seattle & King County and leader of the county’s navigators network.

“Some have questions about which providers are in which network. Some have concerns about their prescription drugs. Or they want a higher deductible, but at least a few preventive visits. So, the navigators have learned a lot about the different plans – especially using the new “smart plan finder” tool – and we can help clients see how the plans compare,” she says.

Some of the changes this year include lower prices for many people who qualify for federal tax credits (which includes a majority of people who enroll); and fewer options for people who used to buy individual insurance outside of the exchange, because some insurance carriers stopped offering individual plans.

That adds up to a lot of people looking for new plans this year.

For anyone hoping to enroll before the deadline, now’s the time to compare the insurance options. You also can:

  • visit Public Health’s help page, at
  • call the Public Health insurance hotline (during business hours), at 800-756-5437
  • call Healthplanfinder’s consumer hotline at 855-923-4633
  • get in-person help from a navigator or private insurance broker

Some last minute walk-in sites for King County include:

Thursday, Jan. 11 Star Restaurant 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, 16005 International Blvd, SeaTac 98188. Shoreline City Hall 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Reminder: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families who are eligible for Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year.

Text version of upcoming walk-in sites:

Thursday, Jan. 11

  • Star Restaurant 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, 16005 International Blvd, SeaTac 98188
  • Shoreline City Hall 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, 17500 Midvale Ave N, Shoreline 98133

Saturday, Jan. 13

  • El Centro de la Raza 10:00 PM – 3:00 PM, 1660 S Roberto Maestas Festival St, Seattle 98144
  • HealthPoint – Midway 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 26401 Pacific Highway S, Des Moines 98198

Monday, Jan. 15

  • Seattle ORCA Lift Office 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM, 201 South Jackson St, Seattle 98104
  • Federal Way Enrollment Center 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM, 1640 South 318th Place, Suite B, Federal Way 98003
  • Kona Kai Coffee 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, 14350 International Blvd, Tukwila 98168

Originally published: January 9, 2018.  This blog post was updated on January 29, 2018. The previous version incorrectly referred to people who have selected plans on Washington Healthplanfinder as having enrolled. They are not officially enrolled until payment has been confirmed by the insurance carriers. Enrollment totals are expected 1-3 months after the end of Open Enrollment. 

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I'm part of the communications team at Public Health - Seattle & King County and work closely with all of the programs in the Community Health Services Division.