Proposed bill would resurrect canceled insurance plans

OLYMPIA — Canceled and out-of-state insurance plans would be allowed in Washington under a Senate proposal heard in committee on Tuesday.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, would allow health insurance companies to keep offering insurance plans that don’t meet the new federal and state requirements, The Olympian reported. But they would only be offered to people who were enrolled in such plans as of Oct. 1, 2013.

Senate Bill 6464 also would let insurers from other states sell plans to Washingtonians without requiring the carriers to meet Washington state insurance regulations.

When President Barack Obama announced in November he would leave it up to the states to decide whether to continue to offer some old plans for a while, Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said he would not allow it.

O’Ban said he wants Washington residents to have the option to keep high-deductible plans that mainly cover emergency situations. Such plans have mostly disappeared in Washington since the debut of the state’s health insurance exchange in October, he said.

“This is an effort to try to implement what the president himself suggested we do, and that is allow people who are having difficulty finding replacement insurance to get that insurance that is available across state lines,” O’Ban said.

Several individuals testified Tuesday about how their health insurance costs have increased since the October rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and how the minimal-coverage plans they once purchased no longer are an option on the state’s insurance marketplace.

“We need to do something for the residents of Washington state so we can survive,” citizen Bill Chandler told members of the Senate Health Care Committee. “This is something that will give us options we desperately need.”

But representatives of the insurance industry and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner said that letting people purchase out-of-state plans and cancelled plans could upset the state’s new insurance marketplace.

Sydney Zvara, executive director of the Association of Washington Healthcare Plans, told committee members that O’Ban’s bill would put insurance carriers in Washington at a competitive disadvantage, since they would only be allowed to offer plans that meet state standards. Meanwhile, out-of-state carriers could skirt those regulations, she said.

Holly Mortlock, legislative liaison for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, said letting insurers reintroduce the basic catastrophic injury plans would most likely cause them to have to readjust prices for other plans already on the state exchange.

Mortlock added that her office doesn’t approve of letting out-of-state insurers sell plans in Washington without any oversight or enforcement.

“This bill would compromise our ability to enforce the standards the Legislature has set for the health and well-being of Washington residents,” Mortlock said.

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