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

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After a 2-year trial, are I-405’s toll lanes here to stay?

Lawmakers will decide whether to keep them or end the experiment and try something else.

Arlington woman dies 4 days after Marysville crash

She was on the northbound onramp from Fourth Street to I-5 when her pickup hit a tree and fence.

Weary drivers using toll lanes say they have little choice

Congestion continues to be a tedious reality for commuters on I-405, which is as clogged as ever.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Doctors fear assault victim won’t survive a kick in the head

The suspect, a homeless man, was jailed after the incident on Smith Avenue in Everett.

Most Read