Washington state struggled to bring health insurance to these rural counties | KUOW News and Information

Washington state struggled to bring health insurance to these rural counties

Jun 27, 2017

Residents in every Washington county will have at least one insurance option through the state health exchange next year. Just a couple of weeks ago, that wasn't the case.

When health insurers in the state submitted their rates and coverage plans for 2018, there was a problem: No individual health insurance plans were offered in two rural counties — Klickitat and Grays Harbor.

After negotiations, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced that insurer Premera Blue Cross would continue offering plans in Grays Harbor.

Now, Kreidler has announced that two insurers have also agreed to offer plans in Klickitat county next year. Molina Healthcare of Washington and BridgeSpan Health Company will both offer plans in Klickitat through the state’s health exchange.

Kreidler said it's crucial to have at least one insurer offering plans in each county.

"It really is unfortunate when you wind up with people who may be very desperate for health insurance coverage — maybe in the middle of treatment for metastatic cancer — and this is not the kind of news going into 2018."

Kreidler said rural counties have traditionally posed a challenge when it comes to securing health insurance coverage. Among other things, rural areas tend to have a limited number of health care providers and the cost of delivering care can be higher. But Kreidler said he's hopeful that can change.

Nelly Kinsella of the Washington State Health Exchange Benefit Exchange shows a reporter how to navigate the online market system, September 30, 2013.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

"We do have some challenges in rural counties, we're going to have some time now to work on that issue for 2019, so the problem we saw for 2018 in a couple of counties that have now been corrected, hopefully we can say won't happen again in 2019."

Rates and coverage plans for next year are still under review. Under the plans filed, residents in the state’s individual health insurance market could see an average rate increase of 22 percent.

Open enrollment for the 2018 individual market starts in November.