State scales back start of health insurance exchange

SEATTLE — A new health insurance marketplace being set up in Washington state to help small businesses find insurance for their employees will not be fully operational this fall, as planned.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange instead will run a pilot project in a few counties for its small business program, starting in October.

The small business insurance exchange will expand across the state in fall 2014 when more insurance companies get involved, said Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for Washington Healthplanfinder.

The pilot project will only involve Kaiser and the counties that will participate have not yet been named.

Meanwhile, the insurance exchange for individuals will open as planned on Oct. 1. Nine insurance companies have expressed interest in selling 57 different health plans to individuals through the exchange, officials said Thursday.

The Health Benefit Exchange is Washington’s answer to federal health insurance reform. It will allow people to go online to shop for health insurance and see side-by-side comparisons of various plans based on cost, physician networks, coverage and other factors.

A March study by the Society of Actuaries estimated, however, that the new federal health care law would raise medical claims costs in Washington state by an average of 13.7 percent per person. Medical claims costs are main driver of health insurance premiums.

The actuary study estimated President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would raise claims costs nationally by an average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017. That’s partly due to sicker people joining the pool.

About 1 million Washington residents are uninsured or one in seven people who live in the state.

Officials do not know the total number who will benefit from an expansion in Medicaid coverage or will buy health insurance through the state’s new exchange.

State officials estimate that by 2017, insurance coverage obtained through Medicaid and the exchange is expected to reduce Washington’s uninsured rate to less than 5 percent.

————

Online: Washington Healthplanfinder: http://wahbexchange.org/

More in Local News

Minutes mattered the day Pat Ward was brought back to life

The Mukilteo police and fire chaplain died at breakfast. She got a second chance thanks to a waitress.

Cool additions at an elementary school in Everett

A totem pole and new gardens grace the courtyard of Whittier Elementary School.

Kids suspected in school’s smashed windows and other damage

The cost of the damage at Explorer Middle School in south Everett is estimated to be $5,000.

Recall issued for about 1,250 pounds of meat

Camano Island’s Sausage Haus products might be contaminated.

3 women seek open seat in 39th District

The GOP nominees hope to fill the opening created by the resignation of Republican John Koster.

Lake Stevens High senior has an entrepreneurial mind

John Cramer crafts and sells designer pens to help pay for college

Marysville-Arlington fiber-optic link planned by Comcast

The high-speed internet line, to be ready next year, is seen as a boost for business development.

Cellphone carrier substation in Snohomish vandalized

Detectives with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a… Continue reading

Driver flees deputy in Everett, then crashes, injuring 2

The suspect fled on foot but was tracked down and captured nearby. He was treated for injuries.

Most Read