Washington Proposes Health Insurance Exchange

Feb 28, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- If you buy your own health plan, you probably go through an insurance broker. By next year you’ll be able to shop through a health insurance exchange. Most states are creating their own marketplace for people to compare and shop for health plans. Reporter Ruby de Luna has a preview of what Washington's exchange could look like, and what to expect.

In a way, starting an exchange is like starting a new business. And just as a business would set up shop, the state is putting together a storefront.

“We’re pretty much in that process of building this and making sure we have all the pieces, components in place,” says Molly Voris. She’s the Project Manager for the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.

She says there are no products on the shelves yet. That’s because the Legislature is working out the details.

The exchange is where vendors can market and sell their health plans. But those plans will have to meet the criteria laid out by the feds, under the Affordable Care Act.

That means plans must offer a standard set of benefits. So consumers should be able to expect certain things from their health insurance. “Things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, preventive care, maternity care, that type of thing,” explains Voris.

Still to be decided is whether the plans would include coverage for abortion procedures. Currently most plans sold in Washington include that. State lawmakers want to insure that plans continue to cover abortions. But the health care law prohibits federal dollars to go toward abortions.

Voris says people who use brokers to help them shop for health plans could continue to do that. The exchange is a place for comparison shopping. Consumers can see what plans are out there, and find out which best matches their needs, and their budget.

They could also find out if they qualify for tax credits, or other reductions that will affect their out of pocket costs.“Once an individual chooses a plan, there would be kind of a note saying, you will also qualify, based on your income, for a cheaper premium, cheaper co-pays and less of a deductible,” Voris says.

Come mid-March, the State Health Care Authority will hand the keys to the store, so to speak, to an independent board that will run the exchange. The state hopes to have the store open for business in October 2013.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network