Insurance Exchange Options in Limbo as Board Holds Out

Aug 22, 2013

The menu of health insurance plans that will soon be offered to Washington consumers is still up in the air. The board overseeing the new health benefits exchange is holding out for more choices.

Washington’s insurance commissioner has approved four providers to offer 31 plans on Washington HealthPlanFinder, the new online marketplace for individuals that’s supposed to launch Oct. 1.

But this week the Health Benefit Exchange Board said it wouldn’t finalize that list until they understand better why the commissioner rejected five more providers, including three Medicaid providers. Several of those companies will have appeals heard next week.

“With those appeals still outstanding, the board didn’t want to take certification steps yet. The board wanted to make sure that every an had an opportunity to be in the exchange for this year,” said communications director Michael Marchand.

A statement released late Thursday from Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka suggests the board is dissatisfied with the insurance commissioner's short list: "This revised timeline will allow the Exchange Board additional time to review the requirements outlined for each Qualified Health Plan and work with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) and the federal government to collaborate on providing additional coverage options for individuals and families in Washington State."

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said he’s with the board in wanting more choices. But ultimately the rejected providers couldn’t meet the requirements laid out in Obamacare, leaving Kreidler’s hands tied.

“I can’t pick winners and loser sand say one over the other. If I do so, justifiably, I can expect to be taken to court,” Kreidler said.

The board will likely meet again late next week to certify the providers, and add any new ones that might succeed on appeal. That could put the state in danger of blowing an Aug. 31 deadline to submit the final list to federal officials.