A customer support center has opened to help people navigate Washington Healthplanfinder, the new online marketplace for health insurance.
The Spokane-based center is open to callers from around the state, with help available in up to 175 languages, a news release said.
The toll-free number is 1-855-WAFINDER (1-855-923-4633). Representatives are available from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. People also can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Our trained experts will ensure Washingtonians learn about and have access to the new health coverage options available through Washington Healthplanfinder," Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in the news release.
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The exchange is a public-private partnership that formed to create the marketplace.
Open enrollment begins Oct. 1.
The federal Affordable Care Act requires most people to have health insurance next year or pay a penalty. States are to have an exchange in place by Jan. 1.
They could leave the creation to the federal government, partner with the feds or move ahead with a state-based exchange, which is the option Washington state chose.
Along with the customer support center, trained "in-person assisters" also will be available throughout the state to answer questions in person and help people enroll.
The exchange picked 10 organizations to serve as lead agencies to coordinate efforts in their areas, with the Pasco-based Community Action Connections taking on that role for Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.
Wes Luckey, director of the In-Person Assister program for the three counties, said in-person assisters will be stationed at CAC, and he expects several other local organizations -- from area hospitals to the bicounty health district to community health centers -- also to participate.
People still can sign up to volunteer as in-person assisters. For information, call Community Action Connections at 545-4042.!