Washington Healthplanfinder, the online health insurance marketplace operated by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, is launching its third open enrollment period for Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) starting Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, with concerted support efforts and outreach beginning Monday, Nov. 2.
New and returning customers will able to see if they qualify for free or low-cost health coverage and compare 2016 coverage offerings that include 148 health insurance plans from 13 different insurance companies through www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Tax credits are only available for those who qualify by purchasing health coverage on Washington Healthplanfinder.
Residents must select their health plan by Dec. 23, 2015 for coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2016. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2016.
New and returning customers should expect a smoother experience given recent system improvements to simplify applications and enable customers to directly pay their insurance carrier. Customers can continue to browse anonymously, compare plans, and calculate their out-of-pocket expenses.
“Open enrollment offers an opportunity for people to find or keep health coverage that best fits their needs and budget,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “With more plan choices to choose from and opportunities to save on premiums, customers should take the time to weigh their options and consider their potential health care costs throughout the year before selecting a plan.”
Washington residents can receive one-on-one assistance from more than 2,000 registered brokers and 1,200 certified navigators statewide. Regional Lead Organizations manage navigators to ensure consumer outreach and enrollment opportunities are available throughout open enrollment period. Customers who need help enrolling may locate an insurance broker or navigator by zip code through the Customer Support link on www.wahealthplanfinder.org.
The Exchange’s Customer Support Center is also ready to handle the expected influx of enrollment-related questions. More than 300 support representatives will be available at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 at 1-855-WAFINDER (1-855-923-4633). Customer Support Center hours during open enrollment are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The biggest system change of the year occurred in September when Washington Healthplanfinder was modified to transfer invoicing, payment processing and collection to health and dental insurance companies. This was done to improve the customer experience in the individual marketplace, enabling people to work directly with their insurance company on accounting-related issues.
“We have listened to our customers and made critical, ongoing system improvements since last year’s open enrollment to better their experience,” said MacEwan. “This includes clearing a path for both customers and insurance companies to work together on issues related to payments or invoices.”
The Exchange makes tools and resources available at www.wahbexchange.org and also at www.knowyourplan.org to help educate consumers about common health insurance terms and important information to consider when selecting a health plan.
“With so many options available through Washington Healthplanfinder this year, our website, www.knowyourplan.org, will empower customers to make educated decisions as they shop for a health plan,” said Michael Marchand, Director of Communications and Outreach for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “There are a variety of videos, tip sheets and tools to make this an easier process.”
Enrollment in Washington Healthplanfinder Business and Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) is year-round. Apple Health customers will receive a notice 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year.
Those who do not enroll in a health insurance plan in 2016 may be subject to a fine from the IRS of $695 per individual or up to 2.5 percent of their income, whichever is greater. This year the IRS requires that customers must have filed 2014 taxes to receive 2016 tax credits. Those potentially impacted by this requirement were notified by the IRS and any individual in this situation is encouraged to file their taxes as soon as possible.
Since going live on Oct. 1, 2013, nearly 1.5 million people – one out of every five Washingtonians – have used Washington Healthplanfinder to secure health insurance coverage with more than 90 percent of customers qualifying for free coverage or tax credits to lower their monthly insurance premiums. In 2014, Washington Healthplanfinder customers received $330 million in federal tax credits to help pay for premiums and over $54 million in cost-sharing reductions to lower costs of hospital and doctor visits.
A recent Gallup Survey found that the state’s uninsured rate has dropped more from 16.8% to 6.4% since the opening of the Exchange – the fifth highest such decline in the nation.
About Washington Healthplanfinder
Washington Healthplanfinder is a new online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost sharing and public programs such as Medicaid. The next open enrollment period for Washington Healthplanfinder begins on Nov. 1, 2015 for health insurance coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2016. The open enrollment period will extend through Jan. 31, 2016.
About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is a public-private partnership established in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) to implement a new health insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. The Exchange is separate from the state and governed by an independent 11-member board. For more information, visit www.wahbexchange.org.