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Exchange name: After the Affordable Care Act passed, Washington established the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. In October 2012, it was announced that the online health insurance marketplace would be known as the Washington Healthplanfinder.
Technically, the state of Washington has two different websites: wahealthplanfinder.org and wahbexchange.org. While both are informative, wahealthplanfinder is the online marketplace where Washingtonians may shop for and enroll in coverage.
State-based or federally run: The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is among the 17 declared state-based health insurance exchanges, which include Washington, D.C. Washington’s exchange is quasi-governmental, which means it is a “self-sustaining public-private partnership separate and distinct from the state.”
Plans: Washingtonians may shop Washington Healthplanfinder for individual and family coverage, and employers with 50 or more employees may offer health insurance through the online exchange.
In September, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange announced that 35 qualified health plans would be available on Washington Healthplanfinder. Four Washington Healthplanfinder carriers offer pediatric qualified dental plans carrier, and one carrier is now certified to offer plans for the small business market. The approved carriers are as follows:
As with all plans that meet the Affordable Care Act’s definition of qualified coverage, Washington’s plans include the 10 categories of essential health benefits; include certain preventive care services at no additional cost, as outlined by Obamacare; and fall into the four metal plan levels. Furthermore, Washington’s health insurance exchange will offer a catastrophic plan, also known as a minimum coverage plan, to those under 30.
The open-enrollment period has begun, and Washingtonians can now buy health plans at wahealthplanfinder.org through March 31, 2014. According to a Washington Health Benefit Exchange press release, those purchasing from the online exchange have until Dec. 23, 2013, to remit payment and receive coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014. One week into open enrollment, 10,000 Washington residents had applied for coverage.
Rates: Washington’s health plan rates will vary based on applicant age, location, family size and tobacco use. Monthly premiums cannot be increased due to preexisting conditions, nor can applicants be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions. These provisions apply to all major medical health insurance plans sold off and on the exchanges in order for them to be considered minimum essential coverage. Minimum essential coverage means they fulfill the requirement that most Americans carry health insurance.
Individuals and families can visit wahealthplanfinder.org to compare coverage and rates. Consumers can estimate their Obamacare tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, consumers can use the healthedeals.com Health Care Reform Calculator, which was listed among The Financial Times “Best Online Tools for the Toughest Health Questions.” While Americans are free to purchase health plans in the private marketplace, only plans purchased through an exchange are eligible for financial assistance.
The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research analyzed health insurance premium data and released an “Obamacare: Know Your Rates” map. Their findings estimated that rates increased for Washingtonians by 54 percent for 27-year-old men and women, 29 percent for 40-year-olds, and 37 percent for 64-year-olds. The average rate increase across America was estimated to be 24 percent, on average.
Consumer assistance: Customer support for Washington Healthplanfinder is available at 855-WAFINDER (855-923-4633) or TTY/TDD 855-627-9604. It will soon be available in 175 languages. Consumers may also find a broker through wahealthplanfinder.org. Navigators and in-person assisters are also available throughout the state; to find one, visit wahealthplanfinder’s customer support page or click here.
Additional coverage options
Consumers in all states are wise to consider additional protection. For instance, a bundled gap plan that includes coverages such as accident medical expense insurance and accident disability income insurance pays lump-sum cash benefits when a qualifying event occurs and can help create more comprehensive benefits like those offered through an employer. A critical illness insurance plan pays out lump-sum cash benefits upon diagnosis of certain illnesses that can be used for everything from medical bills to childcare.
Supplemental insurance is not available through state-based or federally operated health insurance exchanges and do not qualify for Obamacare premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies. However, these plans come in designs to fit various household budgets, and they easy to obtain directly from the plan’s carrier or a licensed agent or broker.
Need coverage now?
If you need health insurance to get you by until Jan. 1, 2014, a temporary insurance plan can provide coverage for as few as 30 days. Start shopping on healthedeals.com or contact a healthedeals.com sales consultant for more information on short-term health insurance and supplemental plans.
Jenifer Dorsey is a freelance writer whose specialties include health and fitness, wellness, sports and recreation. She is a competitive amateur track cyclist who also enjoys mountain biking, hiking, camping and other outdoor adventure. Jenifer received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and is an MFA candidate at Naropa University. She lives in Colorado.