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Other Health Insurance Options
When Ineligible For UW Insurance Coverage

Affordable Care Act

In March 2010, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which puts in place comprehensive health insurance reforms. Starting this year and continuing through 2014, the Affordable Care Act will be implemented, increasing access to affordable health care for individuals, families, seniors, and businesses. To keep abreast of these changes, visit

Who should read this page?

This page describes the health insurance options that are available for people who are not eligible for one of the University's health insurance programs such as visitors and family members not eligible for a UW insurance program.

UW employees and their dependents who lose eligibility to participate in a UW medical plan should first consider exercising their right to insurance continuation through COBRA before exploring the options described on this page.

Common Terms

Premium - The periodic payment required to keep a policy in effect.
Deductible - The portion you must pay before insurance coverage begins.
Co-insurance - The percentage you pay when your health plan pays less than 100% of covered costs. This is sometimes known as “percentage participation." This usually applies after a specified deductible is met.
Co-payment - Your share of a specific health care bill charged at the time of service, usually about $20 for an office visit.

Health Care Plan Considerations

Be sure to understand the differences between comprehensive and catastrophic health insurance plans. The distinction is important relative to a policy holder’s ability to change health insurance plans and not be penalized for a pre-existing condition such as cancer or serious injury.

Comprehensive insurance usually has higher premiums than catastrophic insurance, and:

Catastrophic insurance usually has lower premiums than comprehensive insurance, and:

Consider which out-of-pocket expenses you are willing to pay. In addition to a monthly premium, you may be responsible for deductibles, co-insurance and/or co-payments (called "out-of-pocket expenses" or "cost sharing"). Health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and traditional fee-for-service insurance plans all administer cost sharing differently.

Private Health Insurance Options

Stay on Your Parent’s Insurance

Under the Affordable Care Act, if your parent's plan covers children, they may keep you on their health insurance policy until you turn 26 years old. Contact your parent's health plan to see when this provision takes effect.

Short-term Health Insurance

This type of non-renewable and relatively inexpensive plan provides coverage ranging from 30 days to six months. This can be useful if you are in a job transition, you do not have access to COBRA rights, or you are visiting the UW from another state or country.
The following companies offer short-term health insurance in Washington State:
Grad Med Program - Available to all UW alumni and their family members under the age of 65
Assurant Health

COBRA for Students

Students who are no longer eligible for coverage under their parents' health insurance at age 26 may be eligible for COBRA. There are other categories that may make individuals eligible for 18 to 36 months of COBRA. Special rules may allow extended coverage for an individual who is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's FAQs.

COBRA for Employees and Dependents

An employee, spouse, and dependent child are eligible for COBRA under these conditions:

COBRA law applies only to employers that have 20 or more employees. The coverage is identical to whatever the current employees receive. You must pay the COBRA premium to obtain this coverage. See the COBRA web pages.

Professional Associations

Many professional and fraternal associations offer health insurance to their members. Association plans vary widely in the way that benefits are administered. Be sure to educate yourself about the provisions of coverage. Some association plans have a very limited and restricted payment schedule. You are responsible for all costs above the scheduled amount.

Individual Health Insurance

The availability of individual health insurance plans vary by county in Washington State. See the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner's webpage, including these resources and publications:

The UW does not endorse any particular third-party insurance option. For your convenience, below are a variety of alternative resources for getting online quotes on health insurance coverage:

The premiums depend upon your age and level of cost-sharing for the plan. Legislation passed in March 2000 requires most individuals to pass a health screening questionnaire to qualify for individual coverage. The health plan you choose will send you an application packet with the health screening questionnaire.

If you qualify for private insurance, there may be a pre-existing condition waiting period of up to nine-months for any health condition you had in the previous six months. This depends on whether and for how long you have been covered by a comprehensive insurance plan immediately prior to beginning an individual health insurance plan. Remember, catastrophic coverage is not deemed comprehensive coverage see Health Care Plan Considerations above.

If you do not “pass” the health screening, you will automatically become eligible for health insurance through the Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP), however you may still have a pre-existing condition waiting period.

Public Health Insurance Program Options

Washington Health Program (new)

Washington Health is available to anyone who lives in Washington and:

Because Washington Health is not subsidized by the state, there is no income requirement but enrollees must reside in Washington. You can learn more about Washington Health and apply online at

Washington Basic Health

Basic Health is for Washington State residents who are:

The income guidelines are based on the number of persons in your family. Be sure to count all of your family members, even those you don’t intend to cover, because family size is used to determine your monthly premium. Family members include you, your spouse, children, and/or legal dependents including those who are disabled or full-time students under the age of 23. You currently have to register for Basic Health and may be placed on a waiting list. Learn more at


Medicaid provides health insurance to some people with low incomes who meet certain criteria. In Washington State, these criteria are: pregnant women, children, disabled individuals, persons over the age of 65, refugees, and aliens. Medicaid eligibility is complex. Check Medicaid Eligibility.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

CHIP or “Apple Health for Kids” is for children up to 19 years of age who qualify by income (up to 250% of the federal poverty level). Income levels are based on family (household) size. A young person living alone qualifies as a household of one. Parents can enroll their child on CHIP even if they have other or no health insurance.

Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP)

This state-instituted health insurance program is designed to provide health insurance for a small percentage of the population who otherwise are medically uninsurable because of pre-existing health problems. Before you can apply for WSHIP, you must have a letter of denial from a private health insurance company.

Other Healthcare Options

SHIBA HelpLine

Community Clinics offer health care on a sliding fee schedule. Contact a SHIBA HelpLine representative for a list of Community Clinics in your area at:
SHIBA HelpLine
(800) 397-4422
TDD: (360) 664-3154

This is a statewide network of volunteers trained by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner to assist, educate and advocate for consumers about health insurance and health care access issues. The service is free.

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The Insurance Commissioner's Office has responsibility for regulating all insurance business in Washington under the authority granted by the insurance laws of this state. Learn more at