As Washington state’s insurance commissioner, I’m responding to Don Brunell’s March 20 column, “State plan for health exchanges flawed.” Brunell asserted that Washington’s new Health Benefit Exchange will be a game-changer in the state’s health care marketplace, reducing choice and competition, and driving insurers from the state.
It will be a game-changer, but not the way Brunell maintains. Under the state’s new exchange, a part of federal health care reform, Washingtonians in 2014 will be able to easily compare and buy health insurance. Hundreds of thousands will receive subsidies to help pay for the coverage. Far from restricting consumer choice, the exchange is designed to promote it. We want to maintain a stable, vibrant health insurance market in Washington.
Brunell contends these changes will drive insurers from Washington. In fact, my office is already receiving inquiries from new insurers interested in doing business here. And the exchange legislation was supported by several major health insurers, including two with a significant presence in Clark County.
Today in Washington, hundreds of thousands of people are living one serious diagnosis or accident away from medical bankruptcy. The exchange is a critical lifeline for those families, a valuable resource for consumers, and a large step toward reducing the billion dollars a year lost to uncompensated care.