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In brief: Over 90 percent now have health coverage

OLYMPIA – State insurance officials say less than 9 percent of Washington residents still don’t have health insurance, which represents a significant improvement from numbers before the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner counted 970,000 uninsured Washington residents last year. That number is now 600,000 or about 8.65 percent of the state population.

Agency spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis told the Olympian newspaper two factors are driving the improvement: enrollment in Medicaid and sign-ups for private insurance, both inside and outside of the new state health insurance exchange.

The insurance department reports the individual market has grown to more than 327,000 policies. That represents about 81,000 more insured people than before Oct. 1, when Washington’s exchange opened.

About half of the people who have bought new individual insurance policies have done so through the exchange; the other half has purchased insurance through a broker or agent outside the exchange.

The exchange also helped sign up nearly 350,000 people for free insurance through Medicaid, since Washington state expanded eligibility for the federal and state program. But many of the new Medicaid enrollees were eligible before the expansion and may not have known about their eligibility.

Base jumper found dead at base of old radio tower

PORTLAND – Authorities say a 38-year-old man died when his parachute failed to deploy during a base jump from a 1,000-foot tower near Silverton, Oregon.

Sgt. Jeff Stutrud of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says friends of 38-year-old Zachary Sommer of Portland called Thursday morning to report that he had not returned from a jump he had planned the night before.

Deputies discovered Sommer’s body in a field near the tower on private property.

Base jumping is like skydiving, but the participant jumps from a fixed object – like a bridge or cliff.

Stutrud says it’s is not legal in Marion County, but the old radio tower near Silverton attracts fans of the extreme sport.