Thursday, June 28, 2012

What does health care reform mean to people in Washington state?

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding national health-care reform (the Affordable Care Act) means that Washington state – already a national leader on health care – can continue moving forward on reforms.
Those reforms include innovations that Washington state has led the nation in implementing,including:
  • the health care Exchange, a marketplace to make it easier to shop for health coverage;
  • the Basic Health Plan, to offer affordable health care for people who can’t afford to buy health insurance on the individual market;
  • Apple Health for Kids, part of Washington state’s effort to make sure every child has health coverage;
  • evidence-based medicine; and
  • moving away from simply paying for medical services like doctor visits and surgeries and toward paying for results – better health.
The court ruling means national health-care reform will work hand-in-glove with Washington state’s ongoing efforts. For example, budget cuts had threatened the existence of the Basic Health Plan, but national health reform means the federal government will soon cover the state’s costs for the BHP.
Washington was also one of the first states in the nation to set up a health care Exchange, a marketplace where people can buy private health insurance in a much simpler way than they can today.
Right now, truly comparing health insurance would take a health care expert with a law degree, reading stacks of health care policies. The Exchange also allows individuals and businesses to buy more affordable health coverage with the advantage of federal premium tax credits.
The Exchange board and staff are working through the steps needed to begin open enrollment on October 1, 2013, for coverage beginning January 1, 2014.
Other steps that our state has already taken to implement the Affordable Care Act include:
  • extending health insurance to family members up to age 26, to cover college students and young adults, who typically do not have health insurance; 
  • no co-payments for preventative health care, such as immunization shots; and 
  • the elimination of lifetime caps on health benefits.
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