It is a busy time for Washington health plans as open enrollment began on Nov. 1st. LifeWise Health Plan of Washington staff will be especially active due to a major expansion that will allow the company to offer the state’s public option to additional customers.
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LifeWise was one of three carriers selected by the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to expand its footprint with Cascade Care and offer Cascade Select to customers in 2023. The state offered the first public option plans in 2021. They aim to increase the availability of quality, affordable healthcare coverage in the individual market and allow all Washingtonians to compare qualified health plans to find their ideal option.
LifeWise, a subsidiary of Premera Blue Cross, offered Cascade Select plans in 3 counties in southeast Washington in 2021, but will offer them in 15 counties in 2023. LifeWise CEO Kristin Meadows told State of Reform the company was excited to participate in the public option’s first year as it provided lower costs for customers.
“After having a better understanding of where the state was going with it, we were eager to expand,” Meadows said.
Cascade Care and Cascade Select plans are available through the Washington Healthplanfinder. They have a standard benefit design that offers lower deductibles and provides beneficiaries access to services before they have to pay deductibles.
“The benefit design is standardized across health plans,” Meadows said. “The intent is to help customers when they’re trying to choose the best plan for themselves and their families. To help them compare. In addition to that, because the deductibles are lower than other offerings in the market, they’re paying less. The thing that makes it unique is that provider reimbursement is set at a rate that all health plans have to comply with.”
LifeWise and Premera are working with Kinwell Health to improve healthcare access for customers. Kinwell is opening primary care clinics across the state that primarily serve residents who have coverage through LifeWise or Premera. It can take up to a month to get a new patient appointment with a primary care doctor, but Kinwell aims to accommodate patients within 24 hours.
“These clinics give our customers an opportunity to be seen within 24 hours,” Meadows said. “It makes the process easier.”
Residents can use Washington Healthplanfinder to browse plans throughout the open enrollment period, which ends on Jan. 15th, 2023.
“The Washington Healthplanfinder is staffed up so customers can find a plan 24/7,” Meadows said. “It’s important that people find the right fit since they’re signing up for it for a year. You can automatically renew, and people can choose to do that, but they will get to shop again during the next open enrollment. All the innovation coming from the exchange and HCA is setting the tone for other states. They’re looking to us because of the public option.”