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COVID aid boosted healthcare coverage, affordability in state

Under American Rescue Plan Act, some in Washington now get health coverage for $1 per month or less. Nearly half of all Exchange customers pay less than $100 per month.


OLYMPIA (Sept. 1, 2021) — Washington Health Benefit Exchange announced Tuesday that more than 57,000 Washingtonians signed up for health care coverage between Feb. 15 and Aug. 15 on the state’s insurance marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder, during the a Special Enrollment Period created in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This allowed any individual in Washington the opportunity to apply for coverage or compare and upgrade their existing insurance.

Exchange CEO Pam MacEwan credits the surge in enrollments to increased savings available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved by Congress and signed into law by President Biden.

“These new premium subsidies are available to people across all income brackets in a way we’ve never seen before,” MacEwan said. “It’s no surprise that record numbers of Washingtonians signed up to take advantage of these savings.”

More than 28,000 new customers signed up for coverage after May 6 when ARPA subsidies were implemented for Washington Healthplanfinder customers. This represents a 117 percent increase over the same time period in 2020 and a 160 percent increase compared to 2019.

For many customers, the savings they received were dramatic. More than 34,000 customers now receive health coverage for $1 per month or less, and nearly half of all Washington Healthplanfinder customers pay less than $100 per month. Meanwhile, approximately 23,000 middle-income families — those with incomes over 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which would be about $106,000/year for a family of four — who were previously ineligible for federal savings saw their monthly premiums drop by nearly $200 per month on average.

In addition to record sign-ups and savings, the Exchange’s latest Special Enrollment Period saw continued interest among new customers in plans with standardized benefits and lower cost sharing known as “Cascade Care” plans. More than 40 percent of new customers selected a Cascade Care plan.

Several thousand customers took advantage of the opportunity to change plans and upgrade their coverage. Among customers who switched plans, 82 percent upgraded from a Bronze plan to a Silver or Gold plan, which increased their level of coverage and lowered their deductibles and cost sharing.

More detailed information is available online in a new report from the Exchange.

These unprecedented savings will continue to be available during the next annual open enrollment period which begins November 1, 2021.

Washington Healthplanfinder is an online marketplace for individuals and families 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 will begin on Nov. 1. Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice of 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year.

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