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By Brandon Cline

County cut off from health insurance


New rate filings for Washington state's individual health insurance Market for 2018 show that Klickitat County is one of just two counties in the state where an insurer has yet to file a plan, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a press release on June 8. Grays Harbor County is the only other county where no plans have been filed by an insurer.

The lack of an individual healthcare provider would affect 1,119 Klickitat County residents who are enrolled in the individual Market and over 2,000 residents in Grays Harbor County.

"I will be reaching out to our health insurers this week to strongly encourage them to reconsider their participation in the two counties that have no options for 2018," said Kreidler. "After that, I will look for whatever options are available at the state level to protect the stability of our health insurance market."

Washington state law directs that the only coverage option is through the state's high-risk pool (WSHIP) if no health insurer is available in a particular county. Subsidies would not be available though, because WSHIP is not a qualified Washington Healthplanfinder insurer.

In total, 11 health insurers have filed 71 plans for the state's 2018 individual health insurance Market, which consists of more than 316,000 consumers. Those proposed rates will be made available to the public on June 17, while no decisions will be made until early fall, according to the press release.

"I'm deeply troubled by the changes we're seeing for next year's health insurance market," said Kreidler. "The proposed drop in insurers and coverage areas clearly indicates to me that the uncertainty the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress has sowed for months is sabotaging the progress we've made."

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would partially repeal the ACA, by a 217-213 margin in early May. Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of 20 Republicans to vote against the bill, which would need to pass by just a simple majority in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, members of the Senate have indicated that they will write their own version of the bill instead of voting on the current bill.

"The Affordable Care Act has worked in Washington State because we fully embraced the reforms it offered – including expanding Medicaid and creating our own state Exchange," said Kreidler. "These decisions helped increase competition, provided better coverage and access, and fueled the largest drop in our uninsured in decades. Much more could be done to improve upon our progress, but that would take congressional action focused on shoring up the law, versus taking it down."

In a press release sent out on June 13, Herrera Beutler said she supported the Health Care Options Act of 2017, which would allow individuals residing in a county without qualified health plans to receive premium credit assistance for insurance not purchased on the Exchange. The Health Care Options Act of 2017 would also exempt residents in these counties from paying the $695 individual mandate penalty. The bill is currently in committee in the United States House of Representatives.

"We've had a new President less than six months, while the state exchanges in rural areas have been deteriorating since their inception," said Herrera Beutler in the press release. "Attempts to fault recent developments aren't just disingenuous; they raise fears that the state officials who hold a direct role in ensuring residents have health insurance options would rather avoid blame than do what is necessary to fix the problem."


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