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Exciting news from Washington’s Insurance Commissioner for artists, independent contractors and other small business owners. A change in state law will make it easier to get health insurance coverage for many self-employed and small businesses in Washington State.

The change involves small-group coverage, which under state law in recent years has been defined as businesses of 2 to 50 employees. Small-group coverage generally does not require applicants to first pass a health screening.

One-person businesses, however, have had to seek coverage in the individual insurance market, where health screening is the norm. Coverage can be hard to find, particularly for people with pre-existing health problems. By Oct. 1, 2010, state law will consider 1 person a “group” for insurance purposes. This means that sole proprietors, for example, will now be able to apply for group coverage.

The law includes provisions to ensure that the business is bona fide. Depending on the way the business is set up, applicants may have to:
•    show that the business has been their employer for at least the past 12 months,
•    and show that at least 75 percent of their income has come from the business or trade.

Similar provisions are included in the federal health reform legislation approved by Congress this spring, but those don’t take effect until 2014. People interested in getting quotes or applying for this coverage should talk to an insurance agent or broker. People needing help finding health insurance can also call the office of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler at 1-800-562-6900.

If you’re looking for other resources for heath care in Washington State, be sure to check out Washington Health Program and the Basic Health Plan.

Photo: © 2005, Advil, Eden Politte/Selva