(The Center Square) – Income-eligible individuals and families in Washington – including non-U.S. citizens – who lack employer-provided healthcare and dental coverage can sign up for a subsidized plan in 2024 during an enrollment period that opened Wednesday and continues through Jan. 15.
Based on income, varying subsidies are automatically applied for 82 health care and 12 dental plans offered through the Washington Healthplanfinder program, an online marketplace that complies with the federal Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
That includes undocumented persons under a new agreement between Washington state and the federal government. While those new customers are not eligible for federal subsidies, they may still qualify for lower premium costs through the state’s “Cascade Care Savings” subsidy.
It’s estimated that more than 200,000 persons in Washington lack employer-provided health insurance and are also not eligible for federal Medicare or the state’s Medicaid program.
Of that population, about one in four are undocumented, said Ingrid Ulrey, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
Washington is among a handful of states offering access to health plans regardless of immigration status, Ulrey said in a press release Wednesday. “Over time, these measures will reduce the rate of uninsurance, which is not only good for society, but also beneficial for our health care system and the broader economy.”
Information regarding the overall cost of the state and federal subsidies, including their revenue sources, was not immediately available from the exchange.
When using wahealthplanfinder.org for enrollment, monthly premiums vary depending on which plan is selected, the number of people covered, their age, where they live, and if they smoke. Costs are tiered – gold, silver, and bronze – based on coverage levels, deductibles, and co-pay amounts.
Persons who enroll by Dec. 15 can sign up for a plan that starts Jan. 1. Those who enroll between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 will have a Feb. 1 start date for coverage.
In addition to the website, information is available by calling customer support at 1-855-923-4633. The center is staffed on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding holidays. Additional open hours will be offered on Dec. 9, Dec. 15-16, and Jan. 14-15. Assistance is also available from brokers and enrollment centers across the state.
“Even those who have chosen to auto-renew their coverage should visit wahealthplanfinder.org to check out all of their options and ensure they’re in the best plan for them,” said Ulrey.
The Cascade Care Savings subsidy is available to individuals and families who make 250% of the federal poverty level – that is, an annual income up to $36,450 for one person and up to $62,150 for a three-person household. To qualify, they must purchase a designated Cascade Care gold or silver plan, which provides comparable benefits and cost-sharing regardless of insurance provider.
In September, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the average rate increase for all plans in 2024 will jump 8.9% from this year. That’s slightly less than the averaged 9.11% rate hike sought by insurers but still a significant financial impact on consumers, Kreidler indicated.
He said insurers’ premium cost proposals were driven by several factors, including increased use of health care, a pent-up demand for elective surgeries delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, prescription drug costs, and changes to what insurers either received or owed under the Affordable Care Act.
As of July, more than 192,000 people enrolled in the individual health insurance market bought their coverage through the Washington exchange and more than 75% of those individuals received financial assistance to pay their monthly premiums, said the commissioner’s office.
Free or low-cost health coverage is available year-round for persons who qualify for Medicaid, called Washington Apple Health, administered by the Washington State Health Care Authority.