SEATTLE — Starting Oct. 1, Washington residents will have the opportunity to buy health insurance on a new state exchange, including subsidies for those who can’t otherwise afford coverage. It’s the next phase in the rollout of Obamacare that could help up to 1 million uninsured Washingtonians.
“This is real insurance,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “You’re going to wind up now having an opportunity to make sure you have real limitations on out-of-pocket (costs), have real comprehensive coverage.”
The new state health care exchange, which was mandated by federal law, is meant to be very simple to use. Just go to the Washington Health Plan Finder website and you’ll be able to one-stop shop with more than 30 plans, with clear price and coverage comparisons.
“You’re going to be able to go to that site, you’re going to be able to enter into it the number of family members that you have, if it’s more than just yourself, and you’ll put in the family income,” Kreidler said. “It’ll do a calculation and say, here’s how much subsidy you’re going to get.”
Under Obamacare, that subsidy applies to families of four making up to $94,200. The law also limits the amount insurance companies can charge and prevents companies from denying coverage.
“They can’t look at your medical history,” Kreidler said. “Those days are over.”
But get set for a fine that starts at $95 a year starting in 2014 for those who don’t have insurance coverage, creating an incentive for everyone to participate.
“The pool works if you have good-risk and bad-risk people, healthy and the sick, all in the same pool,” Kreidler said. “That helps to lower the cost of health care insurance for everybody.”
At least one new insurance exchange shopper will be Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Under Obamacare, members of Congress are required to buy their own coverage for the first time.
“I’m delighted the insurance companies now will have to compete for my business instead of the other way around,” said Murray, who was in Seattle Thursday hosting a roundtable about Washington’s new exchange. “We are going to solve a problem for so many people who did not have access to health insurance.”
The senator also responded to critics who say the law should be overturned.
“If there’s challenges, let’s work our way through them and fix them. But their wholesale effort to stop it just doesn’t make sense to me,” Murray said. “I can tell you this, this law is not going to be repealed.”
Many Republicans argue that Obamacare will be too burdensome for individuals and businesses and therefore hurt the economy. Some are even threatening to allow a government shutdown if the law isn’t scraped.