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You Can Get Health Insurance in Every Washington County This Year, But It’ll Cost You

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
06/05/18  2:12 PM PST
Health Insurance

You Can Get Health Insurance in Every Washington County This Year, But It’ll Cost You – By Walker Orenstein for the News Tribune

After a turbulent 2018 in Washington state’s individual health insurance market, the situation for people buying insurance independent of an employer appears steadier, if only barely, for next year.

Every county in Washington will have at least one insurer on the individual market in 2019, a departure from last year’s desperate effort to provide an option across the state.

State officials also announced Monday that insurance companies have proposed premium hikes of roughly 19 percent on average. While that’s a big increase, it’s a dip from last year’s 24-percent jump and a smaller rise in prices than many expected.

“We’re seeing what I’d like to think is some improvement,” Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in an interview Monday.

Despite the sliver of good news, debate continues about what exactly is to blame for the continued premium increases.

State Rep. Joe Schmick of Colfax, the top Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, criticized the Affordable Care Act for restricting health insurance companies from charging rates based on certain health and lifestyle factors. The regulations end up saddling young and healthy people with higher rates, Schmick said.

Kreidler and some Democratic members of Congress from Washington say Republicans at the U.S. Capitol caused much of the turmoil by ending the penalty for not maintaining health insurance and stopping payments to health insurance companies that subsidize costs for low-income people. Insurance companies still must offer the subsidies, but they have boosted prices for other people to offset the loss of federal dollars.

“Clearly for somebody out there who doesn’t receive a subsidy, they’re finding it very, very difficult to keep their health insurance,” Kreidler said.

Within Washington state, individual health insurance markets vary wildly.

Fourteen counties will have one health insurance company on the individual market in 2019. Pierce and Thurston counties will have five insurance companies offering plans.

Read the Full Article in the News Tribune.