Obamacare Premiums in Washington State Smaller Compared to National Rates

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Closeup of an Obamacare newspaper headline on cash

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Bucking national trends that saw the average second lowest cost silver plans increase by 25 percent in the 38 states served by Healthcare.gov, Washington State experienced an average increase of only 8 percent on 2017 Benchmark plans that will be offered on Washington Healthplanfinder.
With this in mind, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is informing renewing Qualified Health Plan customers that changes in health insurance rates, premium tax credits, and available coverage options will require individuals and families to carefully review their 2017 coverage options through Washington Healthplanfinder during upcoming open enrollment period taking place Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2017.
“The trends we are seeing with our premiums and deductibles is a sign of success not only for the Exchange but for the Affordable Care Act and the efforts undertaken in our state to make this law work,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “In contrast to much of the country, the Washington individual insurance market is competitive and healthy. Customers in Washington will find a choice of plans and carriers on the Exchange.”
Federally provided tax credits, which are designed to help offset the cost of monthly health insurance premiums and offered only through the Exchange, are calculated based on the price of the second lowest cost silver plans.
Since rates for these benchmark plans are expected to increase in 30 of the 39 counties in Washington, the tax credit for 2017 may increase for many customers renewing their coverage.
Washington Healthplanfinder also saw lower increases related to average premium and deductible increases from 2016 to 2017 than the national marketplace. Those changes were as follows:
Average premium changes 2016 to 2017:
• Gold plans: 12.78% increase
• Silver plans: 3.86% increase
• Bronze plans: 5.82% increase
Average deductible changes 2016 to 2017:
• Gold plans: 6.53% increase
• Silver plans: 8.29% increase
• Bronze plans: 4.99% increase
Nearly 70 percent of Washington Healthplanfinder customers who qualified combined to receive more than $28 million in tax credits in 2016, reducing premium costs by an average of $165 per month. Because of changes to health plan rates and financial assistance, customers may have the opportunity to use this financial assistance to keep their existing plan or find new coverage options.
“Tax credits make it possible for Washingtonians to alleviate or eliminate premium increases,” added MacEwan. “We urge all renewing customers to shop for plans and compare options on Washington Healthplanfinder to find out what plan makes the most sense for them.”
County-specific information about lowest cost silver plans throughout the state can be found here. Customers can also access additional information on health plans offered through Washington Healthplanfinder, the differences between metal levels, and tips on determining how well their current health plan worked at www.wahbexchange.org.
Customers exploring their coverage options also have access to in-person assistance provided by the Exchange’s network of trained navigators and brokers. Individuals and families can locate a navigator or broker in their area by clicking the “Customer Support” link at www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Additional customer support can be received by calling the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633.
In the three years since it was first introduced, more than 2.4 million Washingtonians have enrolled in health coverage using Washington Healthplanfinder, including more than 750,000 residents who previously did not have insurance. As a result, the uninsured rate in the state dropped from 16 percent in 2013 to a record low 7 percent in 2015.
Reminders: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year. Small business owners have the option of enrolling year-round through Washington Healthplanfinder Business.

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Steve Hair
Steve Hair is a 40-year veteran broadcast journalist who comes to NCW LIFE TV after a long career in radio. Steve and his wife Lynette and their three sons moved to the Wenatchee Valley from Central California in 1992. Steve served as News Director for KPQ News where he covered a multitude of stories of importance to North Central Washington, including two of Washington State’s largest wildfires. During his radio career Steve has received many awards from organizations such as the Associated Press, (Sacramento and Seattle Bureaus) The Washington State Farm Bureau, and the California Medical Association. Steve is a sports addict. Time off usually finds him sprawled out on the couch watching the Seahawks, Mariners or anything that prevents him from doing house chores.