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What is a Health Benefit Exchange?

A Health Benefit Exchange is a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that creates a new marketplace for each state to offer health benefits to individuals, families and small businesses. Under national health reform, states must have an Exchange in place by January 1, 2014. Exchanges can be developed and implemented by the state or by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Washington State has chosen to implement a state-based exchange model.

About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange was created in state statute in 2011 as a “public-private partnership” separate and distinct from the state. The Exchange is responsible for the creation of Washington Healthplanfinder, an easily accessible, online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses to find, compare and enroll in qualified health insurance plans. Starting October 1, 2013, Washington Healthplanfinder will offer Washington State residents:

  • Apples-to-apples comparisons of Qualified Health Plans (QHP)
  • Tax credits or financial help to pay for copays and premiums
  • Expert customer support online, by phone or in-person through a local organization, insurance broker or agent.

The Exchange complies with open public meetings and public disclosure guidelines, but is not subject to other laws that govern state agencies. The Exchange initially started in the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) and has transitioned to an independent organization. We work in close coordination with our state agency partners, including the Health Care Authority (Medicaid), Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the Department of Social and Health Services.