Washington State’s Individual Health Insurance Market is Thriving
Washington state’s individual health insurance market has been determined to be thriving in a new analysis conducted by Wakely Consulting Group, LLC on behalf of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
The legislatively mandated review of the health and viability of Washington’s health insurance market, both inside and outside of the Exchange, pointed to market stability with respect to competition, plan and product choice, average rate trend, and choice of providers within plans.
“This analysis confirms the strength of our Exchange’s individual health insurance market in connecting residents with health coverage,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Our goal is to build off the significant gains we have made in our market since 2014 and we hope our experience informs federal discussions as we transition to a new administration seeking to repeal the ACA.”
Key findings from the market analysis include:
- Steady growth in issuers, plans and products in the Exchange: Eight issuers have participated in the Exchange in all years (2014-17) and total plan options have grown from 46 in 2014 to 98 in 2017.
- Solid enrollment growth inside the Exchange: In the Exchange there has been Qualified Health Plan growth statewide (and in virtually every county).
- Increased competition in the Exchange: The market on Exchange is less dependent on any one carrier than it was in 2014.
- Stabilization of rates: Modest growth coupled with a majority of renewing enrollees being able to lower their premiums by switching to the lowest cost plan.
As part of the analysis, individual market carriers were interviewed to better understand their perceptions and concerns regarding the stability of the market. Those interviews revealed that carriers believe Washington’s health insurance market is more stable than other states and that decisions made by the state during implementation assisted with the development of a stable market.
The following recommendations were submitted to the legislature and also presented to the Board on December 1, 2016:
- Retain the statutory requirement that carriers offer a gold and silver plan outside the Exchange if they offer a bronze plan, as it has not destabilized the market and it could help equalize market conditions inside and outside the Exchange in the future.
- Given the uncertainty over the future of the ACA generated by the recent national election results, and the relatively good health of the insurance market to date, maintain the current statutory and regulatory framework for the individual market and for the Exchange.
A link to the complete analysis is available here.
The current open enrollment period for all Washingtonians is underway now and extends through Jan. 31, 2017. Individuals and families who have not yet signed up for coverage are encouraged to select a health plan or dental plan by Dec. 15 in order to secure coverage that begins on Jan. 1.
Customers can access in-person assistance offered through the Exchange’s network of trained navigators and brokers by clicking the “Customer Support” link on www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Additional help is available by calling the Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633 every weekday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and select Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Online resources, including shopping tips for open enrollment, can be accessed anytime at www.wahbexchange.org. RCW 48.43.700 (4) requires that by December 1, 2016, the exchange board, in consultation with the commissioner, must complete a review of the impact of this section on the health and viability of the markets inside and outside the exchange and submit the recommendations to the legislature on whether to maintain the market rules or let them expire.
Reminders: Enrollment is offered year-round to individuals and families through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). Customers enrolled in Apple Health will receive a notice 60 days before the month they enrolled in or renewed their coverage last year. Small business owners have the option of enrolling year-round through Washington Healthplanfinder Business.
About Washington Healthplanfinder
Washington Healthplanfinder is an online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost sharing and public programs such as Medicaid. The open enrollment period for Washington Healthplanfinder is underway now and extends through Jan. 31, 2017.
 RCW 48.43.700 (4) requires that by December 1, 2016, the exchange board, in consultation with the commissioner, must complete a review of the impact of this section on the health and viability of the markets inside and outside the exchange and submit the recommendations to the legislature on whether to maintain the market rules or let them expire.