Increases to rates on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange coupled with fewer insurance provider options creates headaches for Washingtonians on the state exchange.
Health insurance rate hikes averaging 24 percent were approved for 2018 on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, according to the Seattle Times. Washingtonians who purchase their insurance from the state exchange will face the highest premiums since the exchange was created in 2013. The rate increases will affect nearly 180,000 consumers in the state.
Plans outside the Exchange will see increases of between nine and 27 percent, which the Insurance Commissioner also blamed on federal health care changes, according to a recent announcement.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there. There are also fewer options for insurers on the exchange next year too. For example, provider options in King and Pierce counties reduce from seven to four in 2018. Options in Snohomish County will drop from six to three.
Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, pointed to increased costs for medical and prescription drugs as the source of next year’s rate hikes. But uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act is a likely factor, as well. According to Marchand, insurance costs could be partially covered by tax credits for nearly 60 percent of customers on the exchange, depending on income level. The exchange also released a new tool, the Smart Pathfinder, to help Washingtonians determine which is the most suitable plan to meet their needs.
NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor took issue with Healthplanfinder and insurance carrier claims.
“This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when the state’s largest health insurer banked a $60 million surplus in the second quarter of 2017 alone,” Connor said. “In fact, our state’s three largest health insurers combined hold more than $3.5 billion in surplus reserves — over and above what it would take them to pay all existing medical claims into the future. It is particularly galling that Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is no longer asking for authority to consider those reserves when approving annual health insurance rate increases. Apparently Commissioner Kreidler’s zeal to protect Obamacare now outweighs his concern for consumers in Washington state.”