Wash. state residents get more health insurance choices

Wash. state residents get more health insurance choices
SEATTLE (AP) - People who buy their own health insurance through the state's health exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, will have more choices next year and will only see a small change in rates.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner approved on Wednesday 10 health insurers to sell 90 plans for 2015, said spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis. That's two more insurers than were OK'd for 2014, she said.

The number of plans that will be available in 2015 jumped from the current 46 to 90, she said.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the increased interest from health insurers is "a clear sign that health reform is working."

"Consumers will have two more insurers to choose from next year, nearly double the number of health plans, and a record low rate change," Kreidler said in a statement.

The average rate change will be 1.9 percent, she said. That's significantly lower than the insurers' original request of 8.6 percent, Marquis said.

This new rate is for individuals and families who do not have employer-sponsored health coverage. The exchange board is schedule to certify these plans at a meeting Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the Affordable Care Act has made health care less expensive for Washington residents.

"States like Washington that are implementing the Act as written are seeing the lowest rates in decades - projected at 1.9 percent for 2015," Inslee said in a statement. "I only wish other states that neglected needed changes in our health care system would fully adopt the Affordable Care Act so their residents could get the same benefits as Washingtonians - high quality affordable care."

The rate changes vary with providers, according to a chart released by the commissioner's office. For example, inside the exchange is Bridgespan Health Company, which is offering 30 plans and was approved for a rate decrease of 2.9 percent. Coordinated Care Corporation will have nine plans and will have a 2.5 percent rate increase, according to the chart. Details on all the plans can be found on the agency's website, www.insurance.wa.gov .

Kreidler also announced that Kaiser Health Plan of the Northwest and Moda Health Plan Inc. were approved to sell 23 health plans inside the Healthplanfinder Business, formerly called SHOP. Kaiser enrollees will receive an average rate decrease of 3.7 percent, he said. Moda is new to the market and will be available statewide, while Kaiser is only available in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

"I'm very proud of how we've implemented health reform in Washington state," Kreidler said. "It hasn't always been easy, but these numbers show that the Affordable Care Act clearly delivered on its promise to bring people better access to affordable, quality health insurance."