OLYMPIA — Washingtonians who purchase health care plans on the state’s Health Benefit Exchange will see more assistance with premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as more public option offerings in more counties, under legislation signed into law today.

SB 5377, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), expands the Cascade Care program established by earlier legislation, SB 5526, which was sponsored by Frockt and Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle) in 2019.

“The individual market is vitally important to those without public insurance or employer- or union-sponsored coverage,” said Frockt. “There are more than 200,000 people currently who obtain insurance in the individual market, and we still have hundreds of thousands with no coverage whatsoever.

“Our goal, through Cascade Care, is to ensure robust offerings on the Exchange in all corners of the state, with lower premiums for thousands due to the combination of the enhanced federal tax credits and the state subsidy established by this bill and in this year’s budget.”

Cascade Care created the nation’s first public option for health care coverage, as well as a popular set of plans with standardized benefit packages that make it easy for customers to compare benefits and prices across plans. More than 33,000 Washingtonians chose a Cascade Care standard plan for 2021, the first year they were offered, saving as much as $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

SB 5377 establishes a premium subsidy program for Washingtonians with incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level, funded with $50 million per year in the 2021 operating budget. Those subsidies, added to federal tax credits that were provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, would significantly reduce or completely eliminate premiums for more than 100,000 Washingtonians in 2023.

For example, many Washingtonians currently covered by a midrange Cascade Silver plan and paying between $100 and $250 per month in premiums would instead, after federal and state subsidies, see their premiums almost completely eliminated, as calculated by the Health Benefit Exchange.

In addition, the bill will increase the number of hospitals participating in the Cascade Care public option, extending coverage to more rural communities around Washington.