Washington Health Insurance Exchange

* Washington state WILL set up its own health insurance exchange.
* Washington state WILL begin expanded Medicaid in 2014.

Washington State’s New Health Insurance Marketplace

Washington Health Plan Finder

Being an extremely Liberal state, there was no problem pushing through legislation for a new state health insurance exchange. Governor Christine Gregoire signed on way back in May 2011 to have an exchange created.

Washington residents will be able to go to Washington Health Plan Finder on October 1, 2013 to shop for individual health insurance. Small businesses and families should also be able to find plans for their employees.

The Affordable Care Act (some people call it Obama Care) mandates that everyone 18 and over have health insurance beginning January 1, 2014. If someone is caught without insurance they will be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service and owe a fine. It is unclear exactly how the whole system will work and whether people will really be able to get “affordable” coverage even if they have existing ailments.

On August 1, 2013 it was announced that the state insurance commissioner approved 31 plans that will be part of the state’s new health exchange. Those 31 plans are from four different insurance companies: Bridgespan, Group Health Cooperative, Lifewise and Premera Blue Cross. All of those plans still need to be approved by the board of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange which should happen later in the month.

On August 31st, 2013, two additional companies (Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan) got approval to sell health plans on  the state exchange.

12/19/2013 Update: If you start an application before December 23rd and pay by January 15, 2014 you will get retroactive insurance from 1/1/2014. You still have until March 31, 2014 to get insurance and avoid the IRS penalty.

To see an updated list of approved plans and carriers please go here.


Expanded Medicaid For Washington State Low Income Residents

Medicaid will be expanded starting in 2014 for lower income residents of the state and the state is naming it “Apple Health”. This is one of the ways the ACA hopes to grow the number of people on health insurance.

The ACA’s expanded Medicaid program sounds good on the surface because of the money the federal government kicks in for the first three years. However, Washington state will be responsible for more than 2 billion dollars over the following 10 years to keep the program going. That is without even knowing how effective the program will be and what additional costs (administrative and others) will materialize in years to come. Not everyone is happy to expand Medicaid because of the many unknowns that come with it.