• Applying for health care coverage

    Under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from purchasing health care coverage through state exchanges. These exchanges were set up under the Act to allow patients who needed to purchase their own health insurance coverage to have a place to shop for health insurance. These patients could include those that cannot get coverage through an employer, through Medicare, or through state Medicaid plans. Estimates show that 200,000 people in Washington State meet this criteria.[1] This month, Washington Health Benefit Exchange announced significant upcoming changes that will make coverage more inclusive.

    According to Washington State statistics, 25% of its population that does not have health care insurance is made up of residents that are undocumented. Recent changes have expanded Washington’s health insurance exchange to allow every resident to get access to 82 health insurance and 12 dental plans offered on the exchange, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. By doing so, Washington joins California, Illinois, Oregon, New York and Colorado as states that have been given an “innovation waiver” by the federal government to expand their state exchanges to better reflect the needs of their residents. Washington state’s goal in doing so is to “work towards its goals of improving health equity and reducing racial disparities by expanding access to coverage for the uninsured population” without increasing costs.

    Washington State’s program is called “Cascade Care Savings”.[2] Applicants can apply online to see if they meet the income eligibility requirements to participate in the plan. The innovation waiver will be in effect from 2024 through 2028. Open enrollment began November 1, 2023. Enrolling by December 15, 2023 allows for coverage for medical and dental plans to start January 1, 2024.[3] Open enrollment ends January 15, 2024.

    In July of 2024, Washington State’s Medicaid plan, Washington Apple Health, is scheduled to offer a similar expansion of its coverage options to allow for greater coverage for residents.

    [1] Washington health care exchange including non-US citizens opens for 2024 (msn.com)

    [2] Cascade Care Savings | Washington Healthplanfinder (wahealthplanfinder.org)

    [3] Home | Washington Healthplanfinder (wahealthplanfinder.org)


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