Washington moves closer to a consumer-friendly marketplace for health insurance
The prospects for broader access to health insurance in Washington brighten with Gov. Chris Gregoire signing legislation to implement the state Health Benefit Exchange.
Seattle Times Editorial
GOV. Chris Gregoire and state lawmakers will mark the second anniversary of the federal Affordable Care Act with the signing of legislation that moves Washington further along toward one-stop shopping for health insurance.
The governor's signature Friday on House Bill 2319 will implement key elements of the state Health Benefit Exchange established last year by the Legislature.
Though the Affordable Care Act's constitutionality will be debated Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is the law of the land, and the state is right to respond to it.
Washington is a leader in creating a clearinghouse for information and coverage in the federal law. Otherwise, the federal government will manage a generic program for states without a local exchange.
Gregoire, state Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, and Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, have worked tirelessly to give the exchange form and direction. The exchange begins operations in 2014.
In a nation where millions of people do not have health-insurance coverage, the federal law, which is not without flaws, has made an impact in families that could keep young adults on their parent's policies to age 26.
Signing HB 2319 into law keeps the state moving ahead on the basic consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, and makes the state eligible for another tier of federal planning grants. Similar funds helped get Washington's exchange organized and launched.
The law establishes new market rules for health insurance sold inside and outside the exchange. A process is created that certifies plans and rates them. The law also creates a process for designating essential health benefits — minimum coverage within 10 categories of health care.
Individuals and businesses will have information on coverage, affordability and service, and ways to compare them — maybe even some competition on price.
The goal is to provide access to health care within a marketplace setting consumers can understand and navigate. The insurance and treatment come via private carriers and private doctors. The exchange provides a coherent road map.