Health insurers ask for average 22.3% rate increase in 2018

Clark County insurer requests vary; exact premiums depend on age, plan, other factors

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



By the numbers

Highlights of the rate requests from insurers with offerings in Clark County:

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest

 Requested average rate change: 12.9 percent.

• Counties: Clark and Cowlitz.

• People enrolled: 10,961.

• Exchange plans in Clark County: Eight.

• Plans outside exchange in Clark County: 16.

• Kaiser expects its annual medical costs to increase 2.5 percent in 2018.

Molina Healthcare of Washington

• Requested average rate change: 38.5 percent.

• Counties: King, Pierce, Mason, Thurston, Clark, Skamania, Spokane, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille and Stevens.

• People enrolled: 29,165.

• Exchange plans in Clark County: Two.

• Molina expects its annual medical costs to increase 7.7 percent in 2018.

LifeWise Health Plan of Washington

• Requested average rate change: 21.6 percent.

• Counties: King, Clallam, Cowlitz, Jefferson, Kitsap, Pacific, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Whatcom, Clark, Spokane, Adams, Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Okanogan, Walla Walla and Whitman.

• People enrolled: 29,812.

• Exchange plans in Clark County: Four.

• LifeWise expects its annual medical costs to increase 9.3 percent in 2018.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon

• Requested average rate change: 30.9 percent.

• Counties: Clark.

• People enrolled: 4,627.

• Plans outside exchange in Clark County: Five.

• Regence expects its annual medical costs to increase 7.2 percent in 2018.

Clark County residents who purchase their own health plans are going to have to dig a little deeper into their wallets next year. Insurers requested an average 22.3 percent rate increase for 2018 individual health plans.

Insurers with plans in Clark County requested rate increases ranging from 12.9 percent to 38.5 percent. The exact premium amount will depend on age, county of residence, smoking status and which plan you choose.

“I’m very concerned by the proposed changes we’re seeing,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a news release. “I know these numbers will be extremely upsetting to people who buy their own health insurance. They’re upsetting to me. We’re going to spend the next several months reviewing every assumption insurers have made to make sure their proposed increases are justified.”

Following Kreidler’s review, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which oversees the state-based health exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, will certify the 2018 plans on Sept. 14. Open enrollment for 2018 begins Nov. 1.

The three insurers with plans on the exchange this year in Clark County — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Molina Healthcare of Washington and Lifewise Health Plan of Washington — will be back in 2018 and offering a total of 14 plans.

Kaiser will also offer 16 plans outside of the exchange, and Regence BlueShield of Oregon will have five plans available for purchase outside of the exchange in 2018.

Only plans purchased inside the exchange are eligible for tax credits.

Of the insurers with plans available in Clark County, Kaiser is requesting the lowest average rate increase, 12.9 percent. Molina is requesting the highest, 38.5 percent. Those are also the lowest and highest rate requests, respectively, of the 11 insurers with plans available across the state.

Lifewise is asking for an average increase of 21.6 percent. And Regence BlueShield is asking for a 30.9 percent increase for its plans outside of the exchange. Kaiser is also asking for a 12.9 percent increase for its plans sold outside of the exchange.

BridgeSpan Health Company (Cambia), which has five plans outside of the exchange available in Clark County this year, will not have local plans in 2018.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty underlying our country’s health insurance system today and no state is immune,” Kreidler said in the news release. “There are specific issues with our health insurance system that we need to address, such as the rising costs of prescription drugs and health care services. Yet, the current federal administration’s actions — such as not committing to reimburse insurers for cost-sharing subsidies and not enforcing the individual mandate — appear focused only on destabilizing the insurance market. Sadly, it’s the people in our communities and across the country who will pay the price.”