WA Exchange: Creating a Culture of Change

From the Desk of Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange:

Richard ExchangeAs the CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, I am frequently asked questions about our readiness for October 1, our projections for enrollment during our first year, and when and how we will market Washington Healthplanfinder to consumers. But I often receive one question that may surprise you: “What’s it like to work at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange?” This question always makes me smile. Our culture is exciting and inspiring. It’s also motivating. We’re all rallying around our mission to increase affordable health care coverage to Washington State residents, and there is never a dull moment (and always a deadline to meet). But we knew this job would not be easy.

Our biggest challenge is not developing the infrastructure for Washington Healthplanfinder – it is creating a culture of change here in Washington State. We are attempting to change people’s behavior toward health care coverage. It’s critical that we communicate, along with our partners and stakeholders, the importance of these new tax credits, the benefits of preventive care and the peace of mind that comes along with that new health coverage. You’ll begin to see this communication ramp up as we head closer and closer to launch.

In mid-July, the Exchange participated in a kick-off “Coverage is Here” enrollment summit with the Governor’s office that convened numerous partners and the media around the public education effort for the Affordable Care Act. The Exchange will roll out an aggressive paid advertising campaign in late August through TV, radio, print, web and outdoor advertising, which will coincide with the launch of our call center in early September. And of course, we’re working to get the word out through our local news outlets, with recent coverage posting in The Seattle Times, KING 5 news, The Columbian and more.

So — whether you’re an insurance broker, a physician or provider, a passionate advocate or an engaged consumer, we ask that you all rally with us around this cause as we head into this final stretch. Tell a neighbor, a friend, a coworker or a client. Share an article about us online or post on Facebook. Coverage is almost here, and together we can create a culture of change in Washington.

System Certification Nearly Complete

The Exchange has recently completed the next phases of IT system testing with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to determine our integration with the Federal Data Services Hub (FDSH), a critical step in certifying and validating that Washington Healthplanfinder is properly leveraging eligibility information exchanged with key federal partners. Activities began in early June and allowed the project team to test and resolve issues with CMS and their consulting partners as they arose. The upcoming stage of validation with the FDSH includes final CMS Blueprint Certification Testing to ensure we have completed all of our technical requirements and are fully ready to launch.

We are also continuing our User Acceptance Testing through the month of August that focuses on testing the functionality and usability of the system. This testing will continue to optimize the readiness of the Washington Healthplanfinder system for the October 1 go-live date.

Broker Training Registration Available Now

We are excited to announce that the 2013 Washington Health Benefit Exchange Insurance Producer training has been scheduled. The in-person half day trainings will be held between August 20 and September 19 across Washington State. The trainings will consist of an overview of the ACA and the Exchange, with focus on navigation and enrollment through Washington Healthplanfinder. Please review training dates and instructions for registration by visiting our website.

A Sustainable Future for the Exchange

While the Exchange is currently funded by federal grants through 2014, it must become self-sustainable starting January 1, 2015. We are pleased to report that the Legislature has passed SHB 1947, which outlines a secure funding source for the Exchange and is most similar to the “Hybrid” funding model our Board presented to the legislature this past December. While the annual operating amount is less than requested, the Exchange will be working to assess the impact to our operations. This bill funds the Exchange by:

  • Allocating premium tax moneys identified for Exchange operations (current state tax)
  • Assessments on Qualified Health Plans offered through the Exchange

For more information on SHB 1947, please click here.

Navigator Training Underway, Statewide Partner RFP Out

Ten Lead Organizations are fully engaged and moving forward with implementation of In-Person Assister services throughout the state. Chris Brown, Training and Certification Manager for the Exchange, is currently holding “train-the-trainer” sessions with lead organizations through early August. During these sessions, Lead Organization trainers will review and become familiar with the program and business process training material and presentation format. Additional modules will be used to train lead organizations on the Washington Healthplanfinder system.

A Statewide Partner RFP is currently posted for response. The RFP is intended for organizations that have existing relationships with a group or population that the Exchange needs to reach, or that offers a way to leverage existing services or resources in a way that benefits the Exchange and uninsured individuals. To view the RFP, visit our Procurements page.