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

Lake Stevens man shot by deputies reportedly was suicidal

The fatal shooting is the latest incident where someone apparently wanted police to fire.

Man suspected of robbing Rite Aids

Mill Creek police released a sketch Monday evening of the suspect.

Teen charged with murder in shooting over car

A Lynnwood teen has been charged with second-degree murder for… Continue reading

Police looking for Lynnwood bank robber

The robber did not flash a weapon to the teller at a U.S. Bank.

Here’s how much property taxes will rise to pay for schools

The owner of a $350,000 home is looking at a property-tax hike of nearly $300 this year.

Everett man accused of causing his baby’s brain damage

He told police he shook his son to get him to stop crying, and the boy slipped out of his hands.

At one point she dropped out; now she’s graduation-bound

Anita Bradford-Diaz has had her share of setbacks, but they only seem to increase her motivation.

Mayor, others break ground on low-barrier housing in Everett

Somers: The complex is expected to save lives and “really shows the heart of this community.”

Employee threats caused lockdown at Arlington elementary

Arlington Police said all students and staff were.

Most Read