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Originally published February 13, 2014 at 9:12 PM | Page modified February 13, 2014 at 9:24 PM

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About 300,000 to have health insurance by end of March

An estimated 300,000 people are predicted to have health-insurance plans by the end of March when the individual insurance market closes for the year.

Special to The Seattle Times

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After the uproar over insurance plans that were discontinued under the Affordable Care Act, the number of Washington residents with individual coverage is expected to increase, according to state projections released Thursday.

An estimated 300,000 people are predicted to have health-insurance plans by the end of March when the individual insurance market closes for the year.

That’s a slight bump from the roughly 277,500 people who had individual coverage when Washington’s insurance exchange opened for business in October. It would also reverse a three-year downward trend in the number of people buying individual insurance.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner hopes the enrollment news will slow an effort by some Republican lawmakers to revamp the state’s insurance options.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, insurance plans that didn’t include a minimum set of essential benefits such as prescription drug coverage, maternity and pediatric care were scuttled at the end of last year.

In Washington, close to 240,000 people, along with 11,500 association and trade group members, lost their individual plans — and many were not happy about it.

The public outrage resulted in President Obama offering to let insurance companies resuscitate the discontinued plans. But Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler vetoed the idea, saying the move would be a logistical nightmare and create more confusion.

Proposed Senate Bill 6464 would override Kreidler, allowing insurance companies to temporarily revive canceled policies and permitting out-of-state insurers to sell plans here.

“Allowing across-state sales would be even more harmful to consumers,” Kreidler said in a prepared statement. Out-of-state plans could exclude local providers, he noted.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, a Republican from Pierce County, passed its committee vote and awaits consideration by the full Senate, which has a Republican majority. If approved, it would move to the Democrat-led House.

So far nearly 91,000 people have purchased individual insurance coverage through the state’s exchange. An additional 184,000 residents now have insurance purchased outside of the exchange, according to Kreidler.

A surge in sign-ups is expected as the March 31st deadline gets closer. By that date, most Americans are required have insurance coverage or face penalties.

Lisa Stiffler, a freelance writer in Seattle, can be reached at story was produced through a partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-policy research and communication organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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