WA takes steps to expand health insurance coverage for all residents, regardless of immigration status

Washington has taken an important step toward expanding health and dental insurance coverage to nearly all residents, especially undocumented residents.

The state’s health insurance marketplace, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, filed a report on Friday. Waiver Application If approved, it would allow states to bypass or change certain Affordable Care Act requirements. In a statement this week, the exchange said thousands of Washingtonians would be eligible for new health and dental benefits starting in 2024 if the federal government approves the waiver in the coming months.

“Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, we have been charting a course to provide health insurance to all Washingtonians,” Governor Jay Inslee said in the statement. “This waiver comes at an important time in our healthcare journey, and its approval will strengthen our ability to provide equal opportunity to historically marginalized and uninsured populations.”

If the waiver is approved, the state could become one of the first in the country to offer comprehensive benefits regardless of immigration status.

About 2 million Washingtonians currently access health care through the exchange, said Michael Marchand, the marketplace’s chief marketing officer.Under the ACA, undocumented immigrants (except pregnant women and children) are not eligible to purchase health insurance by wahealthplanfinder.organ online tool managed and operated by the exchange.

The waiver would expand access to more than 105,000 people — about 23 percent of the state’s total uninsured population — according to application.

“We hear too many stories of people delaying care because they don’t have insurance until it becomes a huge health and financial burden on them,” Marchand said. “And then they end up using the emergency room as their primary care physician, and in the end, it’s actually more expensive for all of us.”

According to a 2020 U.S. federal government report, the federal government has approved waivers for several other U.S. states, including Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Montana, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maine, but these The applications are not related to immigration status. Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2016, California applied to expand health insurance coverage for undocumented immigrants, but state lawmakers withdrew the application the following year because they feared the Trump administration would use information from the program to deport residents, Kaiser Health News Report.

Plans to submit waivers have been in place since last year, when state legislatures directed the exchange to explore different insurance options for people who don’t qualify for state or federal health insurance. in the pastthe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also encouraged states to take advantage of the “flexibility” of Section 1332.

In Washington’s petition, the state asked to waive certain parts of the ACA that bar undocumented immigrants from purchasing health insurance through Healthplanfinder.

The application is now under the purview of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department, which will consider whether coverage provided under the waiver is “comprehensive, affordable, results in increased coverage and does not increase the federal deficit,” the statement said.

The waiver will also help reduce premium costs for customers by leveraging state-funded affordability programs, in addition to adding Cascade Care Savings, the state’s new premium assistance program scheduled to open this fall.

“There are many people in our state who never had the opportunity to purchase health insurance,” Pam MacEwan, the exchange’s chief executive, said in the statement. “This waiver gives these individuals the opportunity to obtain meaningful health coverage for themselves and their loved ones.”

The federal government has up to 45 days to review the application, followed by a month-long public comment period. It then has up to 180 days to respond to the request, although the state requires approval by early August.

“Over time, we’ve seen more and more requests to focus on specific groups of people to reduce the overall uninsured population in Washington state,” Marchand said.

While the state has been busy over the past two years making sure people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic don’t slip through coverage, Marchand said filing a waiver application could “be ignored in the past.”

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