Washington first state to require grace period notification for patients under Health Care Exchange

Washington became the first state to pass legislation requiring health insurers provide “grace period” notification after the governor confirmed his approval of Sen. Ann Rivers’ bill at the official bill signing Thursday.

Rivers’ work to correct an inefficiency caused by the Affordable Care Act and Health Care Exchange resulted in Senate Bill 6016. The bill requires that health insurers notify patients and health care providers when a patient has entered the 90-day “grace period,” which is offered to patients who are insured by a qualified health plan through the Exchange but have failed to pay their premium.

Additionally, even though a patient within the grace period is still eligible to receive care, the bill requires that the patient receives notice about alternatives for coverage so that they aren’t stuck with unpaid medical bills since the insurance company is only responsible for payment during the first 30 days of the grace period.

The third benefit of Rivers’ bill offers accountability and oversight by requiring the Exchange to produce a report on the number of enrollees in the grace period to help determine how widespread this problem really is.

“Since the Exchange is what we have to work with, we want to make sure it works for everyone,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “Doctors shouldn’t be saddled with unpaid bills, and proper notification will ensure there is coordinated care for Exchange enrollees.

“The bill was truly a team effort by members from both sides of the aisle. The complex nature of the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent development of the Exchange have created a tough situation for our state, but I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement on legislation that will help protect our state’s patients, health insurers and health care providers.”