Insurance options likely to grow in Clark County

Seven insurers have applied to provide as many as 75 health plans

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 
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Clark County residents will likely have more options for health coverage when this year's open enrollment period opens Nov. 15.

Seven health insurers have submitted applications to provide as many as 75 health plans in Clark County in 2015. All seven of the insurers are proposing health plans inside the insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, with two of the seven also proposing plans for sale outside of the exchange.

Clark County residents who were shopping for individual health plans for 2014 had fewer options, at least within the insurance exchange. Local residents had fewer health plans available than any other county in the state.

This year, only three insurers — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Community Health Plan of Washington and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington — offered a total of 18 plans inside the exchange, where plans may be eligible for tax subsidies. Three other insurers had plans available outside the exchange.

For 2015, Kaiser, Community Health Plan and LifeWise are again proposing health plans in the exchange. In addition, Bridgespan Health Company, Columbia United Providers, Moda Health Plan and United Healthcare of Washington are applying to provide exchange plans to Clark County residents.

Columbia United Providers (CUP) and United Healthcare are new to the individual market, however, both currently provide managed care for Washington Medicaid clients.

Statewide, 17 health insurers have filed more than 230 individual health plans for sale both outside and inside the insurance exchange in 2015. If all are approved, that would increase the number of plans available in the exchange from 46 to 114 and the number of plans outside the exchange from 51 to 119, according to the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Along with increased options, consumers will likely face increased prices next year.

The insurers are proposing an average rate increase of 8.25 percent — the lowest average rate change requested in seven years, according to the insurance commissioner's office. Last year, insurers requested an average increase of 8.95 percent; the insurance commissioner approved an average increase of 8.78 percent.

"I'm pleased to see the health insurers show an increased interest in the individual market and to see rates come in relatively low," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler in a news release. "Consumers certainly deserve more choices, but we will scrutinize the proposed rate changes very carefully. It's on the health insurers to justify any rate change and they know our review will be thorough and complete."

The proposed rate increases range from 0.57 percent requested by Kaiser to 26 percent requested by Time Insurance Company, which only offers plans outside of the exchange. Molina Healthcare of Washington (which does not offer plans in Clark County) is proposing a rate reduction — the only insurer to do so — of 6.8 percent. Moda is proposing no change to rates.

"The proposed rates are far from final," Kreidler said in the news release. "The insurers have limited experience with these new plans, so they'll have to do their homework to justify any changes. Consumers have new options for shopping that they never had in the past. I trust that the insurers kept that in mind when they proposed these rates."

In addition, two health insurers have submitted applications to sell plans in Washington Healthplanfinder Business, the small-business exchange. Kaiser intends to continue selling plans in Clark and Cowlitz counties. Moda intends to sell plans statewide.

All plans, provider networks and rates are currently under review by the insurance commissioner's office. The proposed plans and rates must be reviewed within 60 days, although the process may take longer if Kreidler's office requests additional information.

Once approved, rates will take effect Jan. 1, 2015. The premium amounts will vary depending on where the individual purchasing coverage lives, their age, whether or not they smoke and which plan they select.