By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — The federal government has decided to give Washington state a few extra days to finalize the list of insurance companies that will offer plans on the state health exchange.
The board of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange was set to vote Thursday on what plans will be part of the exchange. That meeting will be held, but the board has scheduled another meeting on Sept. 4 to consider plans that are still waiting to be approved by Washington’s insurance commissioner.
Earlier this month, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler approved four insurance companies to join the exchange and rejected proposals by five others because their plans didn’t fit all the rules set up by the federal government.
Some of those companies have appealed Kreidler’s decision and are in the middle of an appeals process.
Michael Marchand, spokesman for the exchange, said Wednesday that the delay in finalizing insurance plans for Washington will not affect the state’s open enrollment period, set to begin Oct. 1.
Stephanie Magill, spokeswoman for the regional office of the federal health care program, said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has given states flexibility in setting up their exchange and wants to give Washington whatever support and flexibility it needs to be ready to serve its citizens starting Oct. 1.
Other states have been given flexibility, but Washington is the only state to receive extra time to certify its insurance plans, Magill said Wednesday.
“That flexibility provides our board with the opportunity to see what happens with some of the plans that are still currently in the appeals process with the office of the insurance commissioner,” Marchand said.
The priority of Washington’s health exchange board is to offer as much consumer choice and insurance competition as possible, Marchand said.
All states setting up an exchange have been working to meet the firm Oct. 1 deadline set in the federal health care reform law
Only insurance companies approved now will be able to offer individual health insurance through Washington’s exchange during the open enrollment period, between Oct. 1 and March 31, 2014. Other companies will have to wait to join next year, during the second open enrollment period, Oct. 15-Dec. 7, 2014.
The state’s call center will open Sept. 3 to take questions from people about the open enrollment period.