OLYMPIA - The Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee approved the next step in fully implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Wednesday.
The bill, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, moves Washington forward to meet critical development milestones in 2013 as outlined by the federal health reform bill passed in March 2010.
“Last year’s exchange bill was a good start in implementing federal health reform. It allowed the appointment of a health information exchange board that is well qualified and ready to begin its important work,” said Keiser. “Our efforts this year build off this foundation, so that come 2014 we’ll be ready to open the program for public use.”
Keiser’s bill establishes standards for carriers to market individual and small group plans in the exchange. It also provides authority for the exchange board to certify health plans as qualified for the exchange.
“If last year’s exchange bill was the skeleton, this year we’re installing the nervous system,” said Keiser.
The exchange will exist as a consumer-friendly, online healthcare marketplace, pooling a wide range of individual and small-group health insurance policies and allowing individuals who lack coverage to buy into them. Transparency will be achieved through easy to compare standards, easing the confusion often accompanying policy shopping. Federal subsidies will aid in providing affordable coverage to low-income residents.
“This is a major step towards achieving affordable coverage for all Washingtonians,” said Keiser. “These changes will create a viable, sustainable and consumer friendly exchange that promotes competition and reduces the complexity of purchasing health insurance.”
“While other states have run into political barriers, inhibiting their ability in implement health reform, in Washington we’re moving forward – and we’re doing so on a bipartisan basis,” Keiser said. “Washingtonians understand that health reform provides more healthcare access, better quality of care and lower overall costs.”
SB 6178 now heads to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
For more information, Michael Althauser, 360-786-7326