I got an email this morning from Washington Healthplanfinder (Washington State’s Obamacare health insurance exchange) informing me that “an incorrect premium amount of $1229.61 was withdrawn from your bank account on Monday, Feb. 23.” And sure enough, it was. That’s exactly triple my actual monthly premium.
So I contacted the Exchange to find out how widespread this error was, and was quickly forwarded the following official statement from CEO, Richard Onizuka:
“On Monday, Feb. 23, the Exchange was made aware that a portion of Washington Healthplanfinder Qualified Health Plan customers had an incorrect amount withdrawn from their bank account during our standard monthly payment process. The issue affected 13,000 customer accounts that had previously set up automatic payment through their online account.
We are working closely with our system integrator, Deloitte, to reverse the incorrect withdrawals as quickly as possible, but no later than the next 48 hours. We have notified affected customers of this issue and will provide final confirmation when the payment issue has been resolved.
We apologize to our impacted customers and are working to correct the problem to minimize any further inconvenience they may have already experienced.”
Fortunately, I no longer work at The Stranger, and am no longer living month to month, so I had plenty of cushion in my checking account to cover this unexpected withdrawal. But I’m guessing a lot of the other 13,000 affected customers weren’t so lucky. I asked Exchange spokesperson Bethany Frey whether the Exchange would cover customers’ overdraft and bounced check charges, and she replied “Yes..”
… some of the banks may waive the fees automatically once the transactions are reversed. However, if the charges stand, customers can call our customer support center who will track the issue and send out a reimbursement.
It might be a hassle, sure. But it’s good to see the Exchange acting proactively.
Other than that, my experiences with the Exchange have overall been very positive. I initially signed up for Obamacare in the immediate wake of being fired, and received a generous federal subsidy and reduced deductible until I found full time work. The $409.87 unsubsidized premium I now pay for a silver plan with Group Health is a much better value than what I was previously able to buy on the individual market. (For various reasons I’m currently paid as a contractor, but in case you’re wondering, yes, my employer reimburses me for my monthly premium.) So I hate to see screw ups like this tarnish the reputation of a program that has benefited so many people.