The federal health insurance marketplace may have gotten off to a rocky start but so far Washington state’s roll out has been pretty successful, according to Scott Hacker, small business representative for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Hacker gave a presentation about how the new healthcare laws will affect local business owners at a Blaine Chamber of Commerce meeting on November 6.
Washington is one of 26 states that opted to run a state healthcare exchange or state/federal partnership independent of the federally facilitated market. The state exchange is running well so far, Hacker said, but small business plans offered through the state exchange – and the tax credits that come with them – will only be available in Clark and Cowlitz counties in 2014. That’s because not enough insurance carriers participated to offer statewide coverage for small businesses.
This means state employers of up to 50 people located in other counties will have to shop for plans outside of the exchange the same as they normally would if they want to offer a health plan for their employees.
The national health care exchange has experienced many well-publicized glitches, but the good news for Washington residents is that Washington’s exchange has been much more successful. The state has had the second-highest number of signups so far.
The state exchange is run online through a website called Washington Healthplanfinder. Hacker stressed that it is not mandatory to purchase insurance through the state exchange.
“You can still shop outside of the exchange and purchase insurance as you normally would,” he said. “The website just makes it easy and simple to compare plans to find what’s right for you.”
Hacker encouraged his audience to speak with a licensed insurance broker.
“A licensed insurance agent gets training in the plans they provide, and they are the only ones who can advise and recommend a plan for you,” he said. “Navigators and other resources can help you use the site, but they can’t make a recommendation for a specific plan.”
The open enrollment period lasts until March 31.