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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

May 13, 2014 at 5:02 PM

More 2015 health plan choices likely for exchange shoppers

On average, the rate increase requested for 2015 individual health plans is 8.25 percent ­– the lowest in seven years, according to figures kept by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

That “relatively low” weighted average increase in proposed premiums is just one of the developments that has pleased Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, whose office will now be drilling down into the insurance companies’ justifications for their proposed rates.

The other thing that pleases Kreidler, who is well aware that the individual health-insurance market can evaporate quickly (as it has in the past), is the increased interest by insurers, which are proposing to more than double the number of individual plans offered, Kreidler said in a statement Tuesday.

He followed up with a caveat, warning that insurers don’t just get an automatic rate increase. “Consumers certainly deserve more choices, but we will scrutinize the proposed rate changes very carefully,” he said. “It’s on the health insurers to justify any rate change and they know our review will be thorough and complete.”

If approved, the plans filed by 12 insurers would increase the number of plans for sale inside the Washington Healthplanfinder online exchange from 46 to 114. Currently, eight insurers offer plans for sale there.

The insurers also increased the numbers of plans they hope to offer outside the exchange from the current 51 to 119.

The biggest increase in the number of plans proposed for 2015 was  from BridgeSpan Health, an affiliate of Regence BlueShield selling plans only inside Healthplanfinder. BridgeSpan has a small portion of the individual market this year with only three plans. For 2015, it has proposed 30 plans.

This year, no insurers are offering “platinum” plans, the top “metal level” of plans with typically higher premiums but lower copayments. For 2015, BridgeSpan has proposed adding five platinum plans. Most of the growth in numbers of plans proposed was in the gold, silver and bronze levels.

Several other companies doubled or even tripled the number of plans they propose offering. Those include Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care Corporation and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.

Not only have more plans been proposed, several insurers are spreading out into new counties. BridgeSpan, which offered plans in seven counties this year, wants to add 21 counties.

In addition, two insurers new to the exchange marketplace, Moda Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare of Washington, are proposing plans in all counties. Currently, only Lifewise offers exchange plans in every county (Premera Blue Cross offers plans in every county but Clark).

Comments | Topics: BridgeSpan Health Co., Healthplanfinder, individual health insurance

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