Your Guide to Washington State Health Insurance
Before we jump right into Washington state health insurance and everything you need to know, let’s start with a little background information. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a “Obamacare” or ACA) was passed with the goal of getting all Americans access to affordable health insurance. To meet this goal, one measure Obamacare took was to create the ACA health insurance marketplaces, or health exchanges: one-stop shops where Americans can choose from a range of standardized, government-regulated health care plans. Health exchanges are also where eligible people can get subsidies, which lower the cost of their health plans.
States were given the option to run their own local exchange, take part in a multi-state exchange, or use the federal exchange. States that run their own exchanges get to customize many elements, including the time frame during which their residents can sign up for a plan. Several states decided to operate their own state exchanges and continue to do so to this day. Washington is one of those states.
Washington State’s Health Insurance Landscape: Then and Now
The Washington state health insurance exchange is called Washington Healthplanfinder. Before the ACA, 14.5 percent of Washingtonians were uninsured. Since the introduction of Washington Healthplanfinder, the percent of Washingtonians without health insurance has dropped to 7.3! Those who are uninsured tend to be the following:
Between the ages of 18 and 34
Caucasian or Hispanic
Almost 200 thousand people enrolled for health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder last year.
The Washington State Health Insurance Exchange
Washington Healthplanfinder is where eligible people throughout the state can find subsidized ACA plans. Open Enrollment for 2020 in Washington begins November 1 and ends December 15. Your coverage will start January 1. This sign up window is the exact same as the window given on the federal exchange!
Washingtonians are charged a monthly fee to help fund Washington Healthplanfinder. Last year, the fee was reduced by 55 percent to $3.36 and will remain the same this year.
Like all other state exchanges, each plan on Washington Healthplanfinder covers 10 essential health benefits. These include things like prescription coverage, maternity and mental health care, and laboratory services.
Buying insurance with Washington Healthplanfinder involves four steps:
1. Create an account on Washington Healthplanfinder
2. Complete the online application form
3. Compare your options
4. Select your plan and enroll
In true health insurance fashion, each of these steps can be trickier than you expect. Many people need help navigating the website, estimating their income, figuring out if they are eligible for subsidies, and understanding what documents are needed for proof of income, citizenship, or identity. Working with Stride makes this process much faster and easier, while still enrolling through Washington Healthplanfinder with the same plan at the same price.
Washington Healthplanfinder’s Intricacies: What You Need to Know for 2020
All insurers that offered plans on Washington Healthplanfinder for 2019 will continue to do so for 2020. This means all seven carriers are returning to the exchange, plus two new ones. These nine carriers include:
BridgeSpan Health Co
Coordinated Care Corp
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington
LifeWise Health Plan of Washington
Molina Healthcare of Washington
PacificSource Health Plans
Premera Blue Cross
Providence Health Plan
As of 2016, Premera Blue Cross had the largest segment of the Washington state health insurance market. However, Washingtonians are lucky because there is a wide variety of carriers participating in the exchange. This means you have a pretty good selection when choosing a plan.
According to a recent press release from the WA Office of the Insurance Commissioner, insurance plan prices are decreasing. The amount by which it increases depends on where in Washington you live. On average across the state, your monthly premium will decrease by 3.7 percent if you choose to keep your current health plan. Most health insurance shoppers can save money by switching to the cheapest plan within their metal tier. Not to mention, you will likely qualify for a health insurance subsidy, which can help make your plan more affordable; of the 194 thousand people enrolled through Washington Healthplanfinder, 65 percent receive federal subsidies.
If you live in Washington, the start of Open Enrollment (the time of year when you can enroll in a new health plan) is here. Be sure to find your most affordable plan, and you’ll be well on your way for smarter, better savings all year long. And don’t forget – if you need help finding a subsidy or picking a plan, our experts are here to help!