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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Subsidies, special enrollment led to more than 57,000 Washington residents getting health insurance

In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, more Washington residents have decided to get health insurance.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange opened a special enrollment period from February to August, and more than 57,000 Washington residents took advantage of the opportunity to get health insurance.

Nearly 30,000 residents signed up for health care coverage through the state’s exchange for the first time after subsidies provided through the American Rescue Plan made health insurance plans even more affordable.

The subsidies were available to people across the income bracket spectrum, and data from the Exchange shows that residents took advantage of the more affordable plans.

Residents with existing health care plans through the Exchange could also upgrade their plans, and many did. The majority of people who already had health care plans stayed with their current insurance company.

People signing up for health insurance for the first time had a variety of plans to choose from, and data from the Exchange shows that Molina plans were the most popular.

“These new premium subsidies are available to people across all income brackets in a way we’ve never seen before,” Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Exchange, said in a news release.

In Spokane County, 60% of residents who have health insurance through the state exchange received subsidies and saw additional or new savings due to the American Rescue Plan.

The average net premium among this group in Spokane County was $141 a month, after the subsidies kicked in.

More than 34,000 Washington residents receive health coverage for $1 a month, and nearly half of all Exchange plan customers pay less than $100 a month for health insurance.

Starting in June, about 138,000 people already enrolled in Exchange plans saw their premiums drop even if they didn’t upgrade or change their plans.

The American Rescue Plan extended subsidies to more income brackets, and now 173,000 people with Exchange plans receive subsidies.

Families considered middle-income, or over 400% of the federal poverty level, became eligible for some savings with the subsidies too, and premiums dropped by about $200 per month on average for families with Exchange plans in this income bracket.

These subsidies will last through 2022, and anyone who signs up for a health plan during open enrollment this November will see these savings.

Some people might see reductions in their subsidies on Dec. 31, when additional tax credits for people who were on unemployment insurance expire.

Cascade Care, the state’s public option health insurance, grew as a result of the special enrollment period.

More than 40% of new customers selected a Cascade Care plan from February to August.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.