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Health Reform

Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the federal health care law passed in 2010. The law is meant to increase access to health care across the country and improve quality and affordability in the health care system.

What does this mean for Washington State?

As of October 1, 2013, Washington Healthplanfinder became available to residents as a new way to get health insurance. Washington Healthplanfinder is a customer-friendly, online marketplace where individuals, families and small businesses can find, compare and enroll in the health plan that best fits their needs and their budget. Through Washington Healthplanfinder, consumers are able to:

  • Make apples-to-apples comparisons of health insurance plans
  • Determine if they are eligible for financial help to pay for premiums and copays
  • Access expert customer support online, by phone, or in-person through a local organization, insurance broker or agent

If you're interested in learning more, the following report provides additional information about the impacts of the ACA on Washington State, specifically the implementation of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange: Milliman Market Analysis

To view a timeline of changes in Washington, see our Health Reform Timeline.

There are also many other parts to the law that benefit Washingtonians. Other changes that have already taken place include:

  • Young adults can stay on their parent’s health plan up to age 26. This even covers young adults who are married and don’t live at home.
  • Adults who have been uninsured for at least 6 months and have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition may now get coverage through programs in their state.
  • Insurance companies can’t put dollar limits on the care that is covered in your lifetime.
  • Those in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” get a 50 percent discount on name-brand prescription drugs and a seven percent discount on generic prescription drugs.
  • New health plans and Medicare must offer preventive and screening services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, at no cost to the patient.
  • Some small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees are eligible for new tax credits to help pay for health insurance for their employees.
  • Financial help, including federal tax credits, are available to eligible individuals and families purchasing health coverage. For example, a family of four making up to $92,200 a year is eligible for financial assistance.
  • Insurance companies can't deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.
  • All health plans cover essential health benefits, including visits to the doctor and emergency room, maternity care, prescriptions and preventive care like cancer screenings and vaccinations.
  • Insurance companies can't put dollar limits on the care they cover in a single year.

If you are interested in reading the full law, visit