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Inside Olympia — Health Insurance, State of the State Economy

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It’s enrollment time at the state’s health insurance marketplace, What plans are available, and what’s the cost? Host Austin Jenkins sits down with Jim Crawford, interim chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (HBE).

The HBE operates, the state’s online marketplace for health insurance, for those who aren’t on Medicaid or Medicare and aren’t insured through their employer. WAHealthPlanFinder debuted a decade ago.

This year, Washingtonians who shop on the exchange will see a larger-than-ever number of plans to choose from. Multiple plans are available, with dozens available in the state’s more populated counties. Among those are the “Cascade Care” plans in which the benefit package is standard and defined by the state.

On the economic front, the economy since the start of COVID has been particularly hard to read, according to Steve Lerch, executive director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

The economic signals are mixed, says Lerch. The latest state revenue forecast, released Nov. 18, showed hundreds of millions of dollars more than the state expected to receive in tax revenues. On the negative side, consumer confidence is low, home sales are lagging, and inflation is high. But, consumer spending is still strong, as is the labor market. Recent layoffs in the tech sector are being offset by hiring in many other sectors, including the high-wage aerospace sector. Is a recession on the horizon? Maybe, says Lerch. Certainly a slowdown. His message to legislative budget writers, who closely watch his revenue forecasts? Caution — a slowdown expected, and lots of uncertainty.

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