Washington makes healthcare available

Infographic WA Bene Exchange

For Washington state residents without health insurance, Oct. 1 marked the beginning of enrollment on the Washington Healthplanfinder website. The open enrollment is for health insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014.

U.S. citizens will be required to pay a fine for not having health insurance, beginning in 2014. Individuals will pay $95, which increases to $325 by 2015. For families, the fine will be $2,085 or up to 2.5 percent of the household income.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange was created in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010. The exchange then produced the Washington Healthplanfinder as a new way to get health insurance.

The Washington Healthplanfinder allows users to compare multiple healthcare insurance plans to find the best price and coverage. All of the health coverage plans featured on the website have been state-certified, ensuring coverage from reliable companies.

The exchange is an independent organization and a public-private partnership, separate from the state. The exchange was established in 2011 as listed in a state statute. It is currently funded by two federal Exchange Establishment grants through the year 2014. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, the exchange will need to be self-funded.

The ACA requires a health benefit exchange to be implemented in every state by Jan. 1, 2014. Washington state developed a state-based model, allowing for the exchange to be a separate organization from the state. The ACA allowed for a federally run exchange through the Department of Health and Human Services.

The exchange works with state agency partners: Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Health Care Authority (Medicaid), and the Department of Social and Health Services. Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said:

“The exchange offers a great opportunity to find real health-care coverage at an affordable price for many people in our state who have never had coverage before. Many people will qualify for a subsidy that allows them to select a plan that meets their budget. It will also provide them the security of knowing they can get care for themselves and their families when they need it.”

Plans available through Washington Healthplanfinder:

  • Eight insurers, 46 different plans (Group Health, Bridgespan, Premera, Lifewise, Kaiser, Molina, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care Corp.).
  • All plans must pay at least 60 percent of your medical costs.
  • All plans must cover 10 essential health benefits:
    • Ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, newborn and maternity care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and pediatric services (including dental and vision care).
  • On the exchange site, you can see if you qualify for subsidies:
    • Individuals earning less than $46,000.
    • Family of four earning less than $94,200.
    • Medicaid: individuals earning less than $15,856.

The exchange’s website, http://www.wahbexchange.org, offers contact information and additional general information to inform the public about the services available