A primer on the state’s Health Exchange
SEATTLE — Washington state’s new Health Exchange is scheduled to go live Tuesday, allowing 1 million Washingtonians who don’t have insurance to sign up for it.
The Exchange, which is mandated by federal law, is meant to be simple to use in addition to offering more than 30 health insurance plan options. Starting Tuesday, residents can view the plans online at the Washington Health Plan Finder.
“You’re going to wind up having an opportunity to make sure you have real limitations on out-of-pocket (expenses), have real, comprehensive coverage. This is real insurance,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “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.”
Under the Affordable Health Care Act, the 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.”
If you don’t sign up for a health care plan, then get ready to be fined — starting in 2014, those who don’t have insurance coverage will be fined — it’s a strategy meant to create 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. That helps to lower the cost of healthcare insurance for everybody,” Kreidler explained.
At least one new insurance exchange shopper will be Sen. Patty Murray. Under Obamacare, members of Congress will be required to buy their own insurance for the first time.
“I’m delighted the insurance companies now will have to compete for my business instead of the other way around,” she said.
At a roundtable Murray recently hosted in Seattle about Washington’s new exchange, the senator praised Obamacare.
“We are going to solve a problem for so many people who did not have access to health insurance,” Murray told the crowd. “If there’s challenges, let’s work our way through them and fix them. But the wholesale effort to stop it just doesn’t make sense to me — I can tell you this, this law is not going to be repealed.”
Many Republicans argue that Obamacare will place too heavy of a burden on individuals and businesses, in turn, hurting the economy. The president, on the other hand, insists it’s here to stay and his administration is counting on 7 million people participating.