The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner recently announced it rejected five of the nine companies that applied to provide insurance plans through the forthcoming Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Since learning of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s decision, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette has worked with stakeholders to foster an awareness of the ramifications of limiting choice of insurers in the exchange.
“The stated goal of insurance exchanges – as we’ve repeatedly been told – is to increase choice and competition for health insurance,” Parlette, GOP-Wenatchee. “Dismissing the majority of the prospective insurers out of hand before the Health Benefit Exchange Board even has an opportunity to consider them seems to be a step in the wrong direction. After all, don’t we want as many options as possible for people who are purchasing health insurance?”The OIC’s decision means that the companies that have dominated Washington’s insurance market in recent years will likely operate without new competition in the exchange, said Parlette, offering some details about the agency’s restrictive move.
- Four companies were approved to offer health-insurance plans inside the exchange: Premera, Lifewise, Bridgespan and Group Health Cooperative.
- Because Lifewise is a subsidiary of Premera, there are really only three different companies offering plans.
- Only Lifewise/Premera coverage will be available in 19 counties, meaning that more than half the state’s 38 counties will be served by one company.
- The five insurers that were rejected are Moda Health Plan, Inc.; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest; Community Health Plan of Washington; Coordinated Care Company; and Molina Healthcare of Washington, Inc.
- As an example, Molina has been approved to offer plans in the exchanges of eight states: California, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. Washington is the only state that has not accepted Molina to date.
- In all, 31 insurance plans from four carriers were approved by the OIC and 26 plans from five carriers were rejected.
- The Health Benefit Exchange will now review the 31 that were approved; it is possible that the number ultimately available to consumers will be lower.
“One of my top legislative priorities has been to increase meaningful competition among health insurers in our state with the goal of making insurance more affordable for all Washingtonians. Despite this setback, I will continue to work towards that goal,” Parlette said.