Certification Of Wash. Health Plans Delayed

Aug 30, 2013

It will be another week before Washington consumers will know how many new certified health plans will be be sold in the exchange. The exchange is a web-based market for health insurance that’s part of the Affordable Care Act. The nine-member board that governs the exchange voted Thursday to delay certification until next week.

In July, the state insurance commissioner approved 31 health plans for sale in the exchange. But there were other plans that were denied. They’re being appealed.

Some members wanted to go ahead and certify those plans that had already gotten approval. They say this will help insurance carriers move forward with marketing and other preparations.

But board member Teresa Mosqueda was concerned that doing so could give those companies an unfair advantage.  “From the staff’s report and from what we’ve heard from some of the public testimony, it could create an un-level playing field," she said. "In an effort to avoid either of those situations, I think that we don’t necessarily need to rush into a vote today.”

Board members are hoping the appeals will be resolved soon so they can get a better idea of what inventory of health plans will be sold. One member, Phil Dyer, said this is especially important for counties that are underserved. For example, Clark County has only one carrier that serves about 6,800 residents. Kaiser Permanente had applied to sell plans there under the exchange, but was denied. Kaiser is appealing that decision.

Dyer said the Insurance Commissioner is hampered by decades of regulations that clash with the goals of the Affordable Care Act. “It’s not matching the new world. It’s not nimble, it’s not flexible, it doesn’t look at the goal, it looks at the process," he said.

The Health Exchange Board will take up the certification issue again when it meets next Wednesday. Exchange officials say the delay won’t affect the ultimate deadline: October 1, the date the exchange is scheduled to go live.