Monday, December 28, 2015

There’s still time to get a health plan for 2016


Consumers have until Jan. 31 to sign up for a health plan for 2016 coverage. People who do not have a health plan for 2016 face a penalty on their taxes of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. Read more about the tax penalty.

If you are still looking for a health plan, you check our state’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder to find out if you qualify for financial help, including tax credits that may lower the cost of coverage. 

If you do not qualify for help with your health insurance, you can contact an insurance agent or broker directly to find out what your plan options are. You can look at the 2016 individual plans and rates on our website.

Read some tips from us about things you should consider when shopping for a health plan.

After Jan. 31, you’ll have to qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up or make a change to your plan, or wait until the 2017 open enrollment period.

Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wednesday is the deadline to get a health plan for Jan. 1

Consumers have until Dec. 23 to sign up for a health plan through Washington Health Benefit Exchange for coverage that begins on Jan. 1. The last day to get health insurance for 2016 is Jan. 31. People who do not have a health plan for 2016 face a penalty on their taxes of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. Read more about the tax penalty.

If you are still looking for a health plan, you can look for one at our state’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder and find out if you qualify for financial help, including tax credits that may lower the cost of coverage. If you do not qualify for help with your health insurance, you can contact an insurance agent or broker to find out what your plan options are.

Read some tips from our office about things you should consider when shopping for a health plan.

Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Is there a drone on your shopping list? You might want to talk to your agent or broker

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates more than one million drones will be sold this holiday season. Everyone from photographers and farmers to law enforcement and hobbyists are using drones.  Whether for personal or commercial use, there are a number of insurance issues to consider ranging from personal injury and property damage to privacy concerns.

Drones present a significant risk to property and life on the ground in the event of an accident. Drones can crash due to faulty and inappropriate operation, mechanical defects and component failure. Losses and damages could involve bodily injury to humans and animals as well as buildings and structures.

Using a private drone as a hobby is generally covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy—and subject to a deductible--which typically covers radio-controlled model aircraft. This also applies to a renter's insurance policy. Look at the contents section of your policy, or talk to your agent to see if your drone will be covered if it is lost, stolen or damaged. If your drone falls onto your car, damage to your car may be covered if you have a comprehensive coverage auto policy.

A larger concern is liability for an accident caused by your drone. If your drone crashes into someone else's vehicle or a person. If you have a homeowner’s or renter's policy, generally the policy will cover liability for an accident caused by your drone if it is determined that you were negligent and at fault. Check with your agent or insurer to verify your policy contains this important coverage. You can also read a story about drone insurance that was recently posted on the Insurance Journal’s website.

Drones are defined as remotely piloted aircraft systems and the FAA says pilots of unmanned aircraft have the same responsibility to fly safely as manned aircraft pilots. In addition to FAA regulations, state and municipalities may have their own laws regarding drone use.  The FAA has issued these guidelines for drone hobbyists:

  • Don't fly higher than 400 feet and stay clear of surrounding obstacles.
  • Keep the aircraft in sight at all times.
  • Stay away from manned aircraft operations.
  • Don't fly within five miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying.
  • Avoid flying near people or stadiums.
  • Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 pounds.
  • Use caution when flying your unmanned aircraft.
  • With some drones weighing up to 55 pounds, a fall from the sky can cause significant damage to property or bystanders.



Recently, federal regulators announced that recreational drone operators will soon need to register their aircraft. This will allow authorities to trace a drone back to the owner, which means it's vital that you're in compliance with laws and regulations and have the appropriate insurance coverage.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No health insurance for 2015 or 2016? You may be facing a tax penalty

If you can afford health insurance but you choose to not enroll in coverage for 2016, you may be required to pay a fee when you file your 2016 federal income taxes. The fee is also called a penalty, fine, or the individual mandate.

A few facts about the individual mandate:
  • The fee is calculated one of two ways. The fee for not having health insurance if you can afford it is $695 per person in your household who doesn’t have health insurance or 2.5 percent of your income – whichever is higher. HealthCare.gov has a guide to estimate the fee you’ll have to pay if you don’t have health insurance. 
  • The fee for 2015 is lower than for 2016. For 2015, the fee for not having health insurance if affordable insurance is available to you is $325 per person or 2 percent of your annual household income – whichever is higher. The fee is calculated based on the number of months you, your spouse, or your tax dependents went without qualifying coverage, such as an employer-sponsored health plan, Medicare, Medicaid or coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

    In some cases, the fee may be higher than buying health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder. You can look at plans and find out if you qualify for help at www.wahealthplanfinder.org
  • For some people, exemptions from the fee are available. People with very low incomes and individuals who meet other specific conditions can receive an exemption from the requirement to have health insurance and will not have to pay the fee. Additional information about exemptions and a tool that helps you determine if you qualify for an exemption is available on HealthCare.gov. 
If you need health coverage and want to avoid the fee for 2016, the deadline to enroll in a plan is Jan. 31. If you don’t enroll by then, you could have to wait another year to get coverage and may have to pay the fee when you file your 2016 income taxes. If you want coverage that starts on Jan. 1, you need to enroll by Dec. 23.

More information about the individual mandate on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) website.