Tag Archive for Affordable Care Act

A Shakeup for WA State Insurance Commissioner?

Mike Kreidler has been Washington's State Insurance Commissioner since 2000, and says it's part of the job to take some heat from enforcing the changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act. Photo courtesy WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today at 10 a.m., a state Senate committee takes up a bill to do away with the elected office of Washington State Insurance Commissioner and replace it with a 10-member insurance board appointed by the legislature and governor. The board would include representatives of the insurance industry, small business and consumers.

Mike Kreidler, who has been the insurance commissioner since 2000, said creating such a board would give insurance companies an edge in setting policy – or slowing any changes that don’t benefit them.

Mike Kreidler has been Washington's State Insurance Commissioner since 2000, and says it's part of the job to take some heat from enforcing the changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act. Photo courtesy WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Mike Kreidler has been Washington’s State Insurance Commissioner since 2000, and says it’s part of the job to take some heat from enforcing the changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act. Photo courtesy WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

“The more that they can muzzle the Insurance Commissioner’s office from doing its sworn duty to protect consumers, they’re going to be in favor of it. And sometimes, inaction is exactly what they want to have happen,” Kreidler noted.

Twelve of the 13 senators sponsoring the bill are Republicans. Kreidler, who is a Democrat, said he sees their effort as part of a larger, national trend to hamstring the Affordable Care Act, and he added that insurance commissioners regulate all types of insurance, not just health coverage.

The bill was assigned to the Senate Health Committee, although big changes to a state office are typically heard in the Government Operations Committee. The Health Committee chair is also the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Randi Becker, Eatonville. She has criticized Kreidler for not allowing existing health insurance policies to be extended for another year during the Affordable Care Act’s rocky rollout.

Kreidler agreed that it hasn’t been an easy ride, in many states.

“It has introduced more controversy for Insurance Commissioners, even internally among themselves, but also for legislators, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, in ways that we haven’t seen in the past. Hopefully, that’s something that goes away as people become more comfortable with the Affordable Care Act, going forward,” Kreidler said.

The bill’s sponsors have said a 10-member insurance board would run much like the current health insurance exchange, and could mean more oversight of the insurance industry in Washington. Kreidler said if his office is not providing sufficient oversight, he can simply be voted out.

SB 6458 is available at http://apps.leg.wa.gov.

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Washington state health exchange ready to launch

Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period, which ends in March.

They can sign up online at the Washington Healthplanfinder, on the telephone or in person at community centers, fire stations, libraries, churches and during special events.

The state hopes to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and another 280,000 in 2015, said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

The state estimates about a million Washington state residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people. About 325,000 will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.

Others will get a discount on their insurance through a credit on their federal taxes. To find out if they qualify for a tax credit or may be eligible for Medicaid or another program for free insurance for kids, people will need to fill out forms online or access the exchange by telephone or in person.

The exchange will ask for some personal information, such as Social Security numbers, ages and income, but people who just want to check it out and not sign up yet can do so anonymously. The length of the sign-up process depends on how many people live in a household and how much comparison shopping is done.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who don’t have insurance in 2014 will pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes in early 2015. The fines for people who ignore the new law are scheduled to increase over time.

“We want 6.5 million people to go to healthplanfinder to check it out,” Marchand said.

He said testing and training has been done to handle a lot of visitors with different needs, and the website has been stress tested to handle large numbers of visitors.

“We understand anything could be possible and we’ve taken the steps to make sure we’re ready for that,” Marchand said.

AP Correspondent Rachel La Corte contributed to this story from Olympia.

Online:

Washington Healthplanfinder: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

On the telephone:

1-855-923-4633 on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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BBB already sick of Affordable Care Act scams

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 15% of Washington State residents are uninsured, and these people may face fines for not acquiring coverage.

 

BBB reminds insurance shoppers:

Don’t trust caller IDs. Scammers possess the technology to spoof caller IDs, displaying any phone number or organization name they please.

Don’t press any buttons and don’t call back.  Some reports indicate that initial calls are automated and request that recipients dial numbers to enter account information or reach representatives; don’t do it.

Don’t give out personal information. Never give personal information to unsolicited callers; avoid sharing Social Security Numbers, birthdates or medical information.

 

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act or the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit healthcare.gov. To stay current on other local scams, make an appointment with BBB’s News Center at akorww.bbb.org/bbb-news.

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Summit Pacific Medical Center to offer free community education opportunities

Callicoat, in partnership with CHOICE Regional Health Network, has already offered several, well received, presentations this summer throughout Grays Harbor on the Affordable Care Act. Callicoat encourages back and forth discussion with guests on what the new regulations will be, how they will affect different individuals, and how the Health Insurance Exchange (open enrollment starts October 1st) will work, including information on how to avoid being penalized by the IRS for not having the correct health insurance coverage. The next discussion will take place Thursday, September 19th from 5:30-7:00pm at Elma Timberland Library.

Both events are free and require no registration. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. For more information, please call SPMC at 360-346-2222 or visit our website at www.summitpacificmedicalcenter.org. SPMC is located at 600 East Main Street in Elma. Elma Timberland Library is at 118 North First Street in Elma.

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