The Washington State health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, announced yesterday that in the first week of open enrollment they’ve seen a 24 percent increase in site traffic and a more than 50 percent increase in new enrollees year over year. With federal advertising dollars cut and the enrollment period itself shortened, it’s great to see such positive enrollment numbers.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange also noted that nearly 50,000 shoppers utilized Smart Planfinder, a decision support tool that is new to the exchange this year. Choosing the wrong plan can have catastrophic financial impacts. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that 43 percent of adults with health insurance have difficulty just paying their deductible, and roughly 21 percent of Americans reported cutting back spending on food, clothing, or basic household items to cover their medical bills.

With rising costs of healthcare and ongoing changes to plans, consumers need more visibility into their health plan options to ensure the plan they buy best fits their needs and budget. Smart Planfinder, powered by GetInsured, simplifies the enrollment process by defining insurance terminology each step of the way, and ranking plans based on stated consumer needs, including prescription drug and physician utilization. It also allows shoppers to compare plans’ coverage side-by-side.

Why does that matter? Healthy or not, it can be tempting to select a plan based on the monthly premium. However, a plan with a higher premium may actually end up costing less out-of-pocket annually when deductibles and spending limits are taken into account.

Open enrollment in Washinton began November 1st and runs through January 15th.