News release

For immediate release
Thursday, October 8, 2020

HCA finalizes contracts with five carriers for Cascade Care

OLYMPIA – The Health Care Authority (HCA) has successfully completed contracting with five carriers that will offer the newly created Cascade Care public option plans in 19 counties. 

The carriers include:

  • BridgeSpan (one county)
  • Community Health Network of Washington (nine counties)
  • Coordinated Care (one county)
  • LifeWise (three counties)
  • UnitedHealthcare (10 counties)

“The introduction of Cascade Care, with standard plans and the country’s first public option offerings, is a positive first step for Washington state’s individual health insurance market, with increased quality and value for consumers,” said HCA Director Sue Birch. “This is the next step in our ongoing journey to ensure Washington residents have access to health care. What we learn this first year will allow us to continue to build toward more affordable, beneficial, and available products for all.”

Cascade Care is expanding access, choice and value for Washingtonians at a time with they need it most. More choices and higher value health insurance plans are coming at a time when more consumers are needing coverage during the pandemic.                                                                      

HCA, in partnership with the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (HBE) and Office of the Insurance Commissioner, are implementing Cascade Care as directed in Senate Bill 5526. HCA was responsible for procuring the plans. These plans are required to have a standard benefit design, and must also meet additional quality, value, and affordability standards as required in the legislation.

HBE will offer the plans on Washington Healthplanfinder, our state’s online marketplace for individuals and families to find, compare, and enroll in qualified health plans, qualified dental plans, and Washington Apple Health (Medicaid).

HCA released the procurement for the new Cascade Care public option plans in February. Despite the significant and ongoing challenges COVID-19 placed on the health care delivery system, health insurance carriers and providers responded to the opportunity to participate in this new offering.   

COVID-19 is also presenting insurance carriers with greater uncertainty in terms of future costs and risks. Uncertainty in the insurance market is suppressing significant premium reductions, at least in the short term. We will learn more and refine this program and our tools that may help further influence affordability.

Washington’s Cascade Care law included three main components for the first year:

  • Standard plans: HBE developed standard plan designs. Standard plans, which are qualified health plans that have a standard benefit design across carriers, will be more understandable, more affordable, and a higher value.
  • Public option plans: Public option plans are qualified health plans that have a standard benefit design and meet additional quality and value requirements.
  • Subsidy study (premium wrap): HBE is developing and submitting options for implementing state premium subsidies for Healthplanfinder consumers with income up to 500 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This report is due to the Legislature by November 15. Implementation of a state premium subsidy will require further legislative action.

 

Next steps

The open enrollment period begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through January 15, 2021. Customers are encouraged to visit Washington Healthplanfinder to review insurance coverage plans and prepare for enrollment. Live chat will be available during call center hours, and wahealthplanfinder.org is available 24/7.