It’s only five months away; on Oct. 1, the latest phase of Obamacare kicks in. Washington state will open one of those “health care exchanges” you’ve been hearing about.
But what is it? Where is it?
“On (WA Plan Finder) you’ll be able to do apples to apples comparisons of what plans are available to you. You can look at things based on cost or coverage, and you can do it right online from any computer,” explains Michael Marchand, who is marketing the new health exchange.
I talked to Melinda Hews, the executive director of Health Insurance Exchange at Group Health. She says the Health Exchange will be a little like shopping at Amazon.com.
“We’re all more and more used to shopping for things online. You know, you go onto Amazon and they practically tell you what you should be buying,” she says. “I think you’re going to see more and more as data becomes available. People, given the right information, make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”
So you would go to the website, enter your zip code, choose how much you want to pay (there will be three price levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold) – and all the available plans will pop up.
You can also enter your income to see if you qualify for a subsidy.
But there is one thing Melinda says you won’t have to do, which might surprise you.
“If you go to buy health insurance in the typical market in the state of Washington you have to pass a health status questionnaire, you fill out a bunch of forms: all of that will go away. In October, you go online to apply, you will not have to put in a bunch of health information,” says Melinda.
Wait, they don’t care about your preexisting conditions?
“Of course, we at Group Health and elsewhere, care about the state of your health. But in terms of that imposing limitations on your coverage, it will all go away on coverage that’s effective as of Jan. 14.”
That’s when the new policies would take effect. As for how much you can expect to pay…
“A person who is 29-years-old, making around $29,000 a year could receive about $129 a month in assistance to buy coverage, which depending on the level of coverage, $129 a month assistance could help pay for half of that person’s cost of coverage.”
So around $130 per month out-of-pocket for an individual with subsidy; $260 without. Keep in mind – you will be required to buy health insurance starting in 2014, but in return, the insurance companies are required to sell it to you regardless of your medical condition. And should you get sick – they cannot cut you off or cap your benefits.