Washington’s Health Exchange Open for Registration Tuesday, October 1st.

By Steve Jackson

The State Health Exchange has designed to deal with a tremendous health problem in Washington State. That is, the one million estimated people who have no health insurance in the state. Many of the lowest income people will get medical coverage free through Medicare, but the idea is to also make health coverage affordable for those who have full time jobs, who could not afford insurance in the past.

Subsidies to help them do that are available for those making up to 400-percent of the Federal poverty level, or about $45,000 for an individual, about $94,000 for a family of four. Michael Marchand of the Washington Health Plan finder says those subsidies will come in the form of an instant tax credit.

Marchand: “So if you have let’s say a premium of $200, but your income provided you a tax credit of $50, then you would only have to pay the difference, the $50 would be taken off your premium and you would only be responsible for the $150."

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler says he realizes there will be people who have not had any medical issues in the past, that wonder why they will be required to purchase insurance:

Kriedler: “But you know, no one is immune to bad luck. You can wind up with a diagnoses of MS , and the pharmaceutical costs are astronomical, and if you went to the market today, pre reform, they wouldn’t even cover the costs of pharmaceuticals so you’d have to bear all of those costs.”
Kriedler says the new requirements passed under the Affordable care act will insure that those that need such coverage will receive it.

He says the most affordable plans offered through the Exchange may not be at the so-called “Cadillac” level of coverage, but will be more than adequate for most peoples needs:

Kriedler: “They will wind up having very broad coverage that will treat any kind of medical condition. It’s part of getting the approval through our office is to make sure that robust coverage is available. Even if it is more limited, you might not have a number of a certain type of specialists, but you will have those specialists available, and will be prepared to take appointments from you.”

Michael Marchand agrees, saying say folks can ask a telephone support person about their own medical needs, so can they can tailor a coverage plan that works best for them:
Marchand: “A premium cost in [the] bronze plan may be cheaper than a silver plan, but a silver plan may have more robust coverage, and more people in the network, and over the course of a year, you may save more money in a silver plan, even thought the premium may be more than ten dollars a month.”

Insurance commissioner Kreidler adds that while many people who already pay for individual coverage may have received letters from their current Insurance companies telling them of changes to their plans under the Affordable care act, the may want to shop around to see what other options are available.
The call center is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekdays, and will be able to serve a number of customers in various languages.

The phone number is 1-855-WAFINDER, or 855-923-4633.

The website: wahealthplanfinder.org.
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