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GENERAL VALLEY NEWS

Health Insurers approved to sell dozens of plans in Washington's 2018 individual health insurance market
October 27, 2017



Chronicle staff

(OLYMPIA, W.)  --  Eleven health insurers have been approved to sell 74 plans in Washington's 2018 individual health insurance market (PDF, 138 KB), according to a statement from Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's office.

That's the good news. The bad news is, "The average premium increase this year has jumped to 36.4 percent due to President Trump's decision to stop funding the cost-sharing reduction assistance," said the commissioner's statement.

The president's decision increased rates by 10 percent on average in Washington state.

"I'm very disheartened to have to approve these rates," said Insurance Commissioner Kreidler. "For months, we've struggled with the ongoing uncertainty at the federal level and have shared our concerns with our Congressional delegation and with the president's administration. I warned of the harm their actions could inflict on real people and their families. The president's decision to stop making cost-sharing subsidy payments and weakening the enforcement of the individual mandate to buy health insurance are behind the surge in premiums we're seeing this year. The other major cost driver is the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs -- something the administration promised to tackle, yet has failed to take on."

See insurers and their rates by county

Consumers who select a silver-level plan inside the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) will see an additional rate increase due to the end of cost-sharing reduction funding.

However, they will still receive cost-sharing assistance if they income qualify, and any rate increase would be mitigated if they qualify for these subsidies or Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTCs). People who select a silver plan and do not qualify for subsidies will be hit the hardest by the president's decision.

Last year, approximately 110,000 people purchased silver plans through the Exchange (www.wahealthplanfinder.org). More than 73,000 of them received subsidies.

More than 300,000 people in Washington - or about 5 percent of our state population - do not get health insurance from their employer and must buy a plan through the  individual health insurance market. They can buy these plans through the Exchange or directly from an insurer. However, subsidies are only available through the Exchange.

Earlier this year, Kreidler instructed insurers to file two sets of rates for silver-level plans - one assuming the federal government would continue funding cost-sharing reduction subsidies and one, if the funding stopped. Both sets of rates were approved.

When President Trump issued his Executive Order, insurers were allowed to switch to the higher set of rates. If Congress restores the funding at any time in 2018, insurers must revert to the lower set of rates and consumers will be notified.

Silver plans sold only outside the Exchange, as well as bronze and gold plans, have rate changes but are not impacted by the president's action.

In addition to the president's actions on cost-sharing reduction subsidies and the weakened enforcement of the individual mandate, other major factors behind this year's rate increases include the increased costs of both medical services and prescription drugs, as well as the reinstatement of the federal health insurance providers tax.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to pay a tax to help fund the law. Congress placed a moratorium on its collection during 2017, but required insurers to pay it in 2018.

"President Trump calls the cost-sharing reduction assistance a bailout for insurers, but this only demonstrates his shallow understanding of health insurance and the law he is charged with enforcing," added Kreidler. "These subsidies help thousands of people in Washington and millions across the country afford coverage. Cutting off the funding only hurts people who struggle to afford and keep their coverage. His decision and inaction by Congress will make it hard for many people to bear these costs. I fear that many will go uninsured. I urge Congress to join Sens. Alexander and Murray in working towards a bipartisan solution (www.CBO.gov). People's lives are depending on it."

The president also shortened this year's o open enrollment period by several weeks. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 15, 2018.


2018 Approved rate changes by insurer

Health insurer Approved average* rate change due to CSR funding ending Approved average* rate change if CSR funding is restored

 

Sold inside/outside Exchange
Asuris Northwest Health 25.00% 25.00% Outside
BridgeSpan Health Co. 16.00% 16.00% Outside
Coordinated Care Corp. 45.85% 30.03% Inside
Health Alliance 11.76% 11.76% Outside
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington 23.26% 15.53% Both
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest 28.30% 18.89% Both
LifeWise Health Plan of Washington 33.73% 26.20% Inside
Molina Healthcare of Washington 61.25% 45.53% Inside
Premera Blue Cross 35.51% 29.71% Inside
Regence BlueShield 24.60% 24.60% Outside
Regence BlueShield of Oregon 23.30% 23.30% Outside

Total approved average* change

*weighted by enrollment as of March 2017

36.4% 26.4%





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