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Over 9,400 enrollments in Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s first week

More than 9,400 people in Washington state have signed up for insurance for either themselves or their families in the first week of the state's new health exchange open enrollment period, according to numbers released Monday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

While things started out a little bumpy, the people behind Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange are happy with the number of people checking out Washington’s new health care options.

“It’s been pretty amazing. We’ve had over 2.7 million page views just in our first week,” said Exchange spokesman Michael Marchand, in an appearance on KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show. “That’s people who are coming on to look at what the opportunity is at Washington Health Plan Finder.”

More than 9,400 people in Washington state have signed up for insurance for either themselves or their families in the first week of the state’s new health exchange open enrollment period.

Numbers from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange show that 9,452 enrollments have been completed since the exchange went live Oct. 1. And an additional 10,000 applications have been completed and are pending a payment process for enrollment, Marchand said.

Washington state released its first numbers on Monday, but numbers from the national exchanges aren’t yet available.

“Do you understand why the national numbers are so hard to come by?” asked host Tom Tangney.

“It could be possible that the person who has them is on furlough,” Marchand joked.

But in all seriousness, he said especially with the technical difficulties in the beginning, it would be difficult to present real, accurate numbers at this point.

“It’s really, really hard to get what I would say is clean, verifiable and meaningful data when the system hasn’t been performing the way it’s supposed to perform, because it’s just not going to be accurate,” said Marchand. “So anything they even pulled now, I would even question the veracity of it.”

Curley asked why the government wasn’t better prepared in the first place, so perhaps all these technical glitches and delays in reporting could have been avoided.

Marchand said that’s a valid question, both for those working on the national system and the state system here.

“We’ve been looking at that, and what we’ve come to find out is no matter how much you user-test or you forecast or you believe what may happen will happen, oftentimes, that’s not how behavior is.”

Both the system and the consumers operated in ways the developers weren’t prepared for and they’re still ironing things out. Marchand said that officials will continue monitoring the site for any issues in the coming weeks.

Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period ending in March.

The state estimates about 1 million Washington state residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people. Officials hope to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and 280,000 in 2015. Another 325,000 people will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who don’t have insurance in 2014 will pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes in early 2015. The fines for people who ignore the new law are scheduled to increase over time.

Associated Press’ Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.

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