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VIDEO: HEALTHCARE: Murray Discusses Success of WA Health Exchange, Presses Administration Official on Outreach to Families Whose Plans Were Cancelled by Insurance Companies

Nov 05 2013

Murray highlights the early success of WA Healthplanfinder, asks administration what lessons can be learned from WA in improving federal efforts



Murray seeks info on federal outreach efforts to those whose insurance companies have cancelled their individual plans but may be unaware that affordable care is available on the exchanges

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, attended a hearing on issues relating to the online federal health insurance Marketplace, healthcare.gov. Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, testified before the committee on early challenges the federal website has faced, and outlined the path forward.  Senator Murray asked Administrator Tavenner about the lessons that can be learned from the success of Washington state’s online enrollment center, Washington Healthplanfinder.  In the first month, over 55,000 Washingtonians successfully signed up for health care coverage using the site.

Senator Murray also questioned the Administrator on how the federal government plans to reach out to Americans whose insurance companies have cancelled their individual plans but who may be unaware that improved, affordable plans are available on the ACA Marketplaces. Administrator Tavenner promised to follow-up with Senator Murray on their outreach plans.

“The Affordable Care Act was designed to have states lead the way and drive market reforms by building Marketplaces.  States like Kentucky and Washington State planned, designed, and created their own Marketplaces,” Senator Murray said at the hearing. “Many states declined the opportunity to build their own Marketplace and instead relied on the federal government to do the work for them. Washington State’s Healthplanfinder has been a national leader on the launch of the new Marketplaces and in its first month enrolled over 55,000 Washingtonians for new health insurance coverage, including 10,000 new kids.  I am very proud of the work done in my state to provide access to quality, affordable coverage.” 

Full text of Senator Murray’s statement for the record:

“Today, we have a chance to learn more about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from the Administrator from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Marilyn Tavenner.

“The launch of the federal website, healthcare.gov was not what the American people deserved or expected, and we can do better.

“I am hopeful that with the right changes we can bring the federal site more in line with the Marketplace we have here at home in the state of Washington which has already enrolled over 55,000 individuals for coverage, including 10,000 newly covered kids through Washington’s Healthplanfinder.

“Washington Healthplanfinder is what the federal Marketplace should look like when it works. 

“It is what the ACA intended.  Consumers all across the country should have the same experience that Washingtonians have with our Healthplanfinder.

“The ACA gave states the blocks to build, and many states like Washington have built working Marketplaces for consumers.  This is proof that the federal site too can work. 

“We are offering a good product in Washington, and across the country.   People are interested.  Now let’s work together to ensure the costumer experience is improved across the board- which is the focus of today’s hearing.

“Nearly 25 million Americans will receive health insurance through the new Marketplaces.  This is mission of the ACA and it is important not to lose sight of this as we work to fix healthcare.gov.  This is about working families accessing comprehensive, quality, and more affordable coverage.

“Washingtonians like Jessica Lawson who signed up for coverage, stating ‘I’m Really Happy Now Because Now My Life Is Going To Be Better.’ 

Washington State’s mobile health plan finder unit is currently traveling to eight cities across the state, encouraging people to sign up and know what their options are when it comes to paying for health care.  The burden of living without health insurance was suddenly lifted when Jessica Lawson drove by the mobile health plan finder unit in North Spokane. ‘So something was just speaking out to me so I pulled over and came here,’ Lawson said.  Once inside she signed up for health insurance through the Washington health benefit exchange.  She's now one of about 50,000 people in Washington who've signed up online. ‘I have insurance, thanks to these people here,’ she said. ‘I just applied and I got approved. I'm really happy now because now my life is going to be a lot better.’ Lawson, who has a disability, has been without her medication for nearly two years. ‘It's been really hard, its been a major struggle for me because I'm unemployed and I don't have the money to pay for anything out of pocket,’ she said.

“Or Carissa Brooks, who works as an Assistant, received coverage through Medicaid and said as a result, ‘I Was Going To Cry.’

Carissa went to the Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue Saturday to buy some thread. She went home with some health insurance. It was an emotional moment for the 36-year-old mother of two, who a year ago was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disorder that she said sometimes causes her joint paint, hives and even has led to her hair falling out. She is uninsured and has struggled to pay for treatment.  While her income is modest, Brooks — who works as an administrative assistant with a Bellevue nonprofit that provides before- and after-school care for kids — said it’s just above the Medicaid threshold. But quitting her job to qualify would leave her unable to pay her other bills.  On Saturday, as she was shopping at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores at the mall, she stumbled upon a health-insurance outreach program by Public Health — Seattle & King County. The department hosted the event to help people obtain coverage through the state’s new exchange, created for the Affordable Care Act. ‘It’s exciting,’ Brooks said, after hugging her ‘in-person assister,’ the staffer certified to help with enrollment. ‘I was going to cry.’  Brooks was able to qualify for Medicaid coverage under the new Affordable Care Act provisions, and she will not have to pay any premium for her coverage.”

“Carissa and Jennifer are not alone, and millions of families and small business owners have already benefited from the Affordable Care Act through free preventive health care; better value for seniors on prescription drugs; an end to lifetime coverage caps and for the first time individuals with pre-existing conditions are guaranteed coverage.

 “The Affordable Care Act puts consumers in charge of our healthcare system, not insurance companies.  Already in Washington State, these benefits are being realized.

  • Nearly 50,000 people have enrolled in health coverage through the exchange, which includes 10,000 newly enrolled kids.
  • 1.6 million People are now receiving free preventive care, including cancer screenings, mammograms, child check-ups, and even flu shots.
  • 62,000 young adults in our state have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26
  • Seniors have saved more than $100 million on prescription drugs
  • and many families have received refunds from their insurance companies – averaging more than $500

“Let’s work together to make sure healthcare.gov gets fixed, and the ACA is fully implemented.

“Let’s make sure that consumers understand the notices they are getting in the mail from insurance companies, and are able to sign up for new coverage on the Marketplace.

“Millions of American stand to benefit from the work being done in Washington and across the country.  It is our job as Congress to do everything in our power to ensure that every American understands the Affordable Care Act, and is able to sign up for coverage, no matter where they live.

“I will do my part, and I hope my colleagues will do the same.  If we do, we all stand on the right side of history, as we improve the healthcare system to be more accessible, more affordable, and better for all Americans.”