The nation’s first public option is open for enrollment

05 Nov
Open Enrollment 2021

Dear Neighbors,

If you’re looking for health insurance, now is the time to act. Open enrollment in the Washington State health care exchange opened on November 1. For coverage starting January 1, the deadline to enroll is December 15; and for coverage starting February 1, the deadline is January 15. See below for information about subsidies for people on low incomes or who have lost their jobs.

In 2019, the Legislature passed a bill creating Cascade Care, the nation’s first public option for health insurance. This year, it will be up and running, and the numbers are looking good.

Already, in the first week of open enrollment, more than 182,000 Washingtonians have signed up for 2021 coverage on our state’s health care exchange. Among the 2,400 customers who have signed up for coverage for the first time this year, 30% have selected new Cascade Care plans.

One major goal of our bill was to set up plans that provide patients more and better care for their money. The plans Cascade Care is offering for 2021 cover more services before needing to meet the deductible, including primary care visits, mental health services, and generic drugs. People can get the care they need without worrying about whether they can afford it up front. That keeps our whole state healthier.

And Cascade Care is also hitting another of our major goals: finally bringing costs for health insurance down across the board. By competing with other plans, Cascade Care pushes other providers to offer better plans, lower deductibles, and lower rates. Cascade Care plans offer deductibles that are on average $1,000 less than other plans. And the average rate across all plans on the exchange in 2021 will be 2.4% less than in 2020.

And at the same time, our health care marketplace has remained vibrant. In King County, you can choose between nearly 70 plans offered by 8 different insurance carriers. That allows you to shop for the best plan for the health care you need—which may or may not be one of the new Cascade Care plans.

If you are on a tight budget, don’t let the sticker price keep you from signing up. People who are on low incomes or who have lost their employer-provided coverage may qualify for subsidies to lower their premiums. If your income has decreased because you’ve lost your job or you have come to the end of unemployment benefits, you may qualify for federal subsides under the Affordable Care Act. You will be able to see the amount of the subsidy once you start the process of signing up for health care.

And if your income is below 138% of the federal poverty level (about $3,000 per month for a family of four), or you meet other criteria, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Washington’s Apple Care program. You can find out more about eligibility for Apple Care here.

For more information to help you find health insurance, or to learn about Cascade Care, get in contact with Washington Healthplanfinder. Their options include in-person enrollment centers, virtual video or phone assistance (1-855-923-4633; TTY: 855-627-9604), the WAPlanfinder Mobile App, and

Open Enrollment 2021

Stay in Touch

If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.

Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.


Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore



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