Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Non-profit health insurer surplus legislation advances in WA legislature

A bill we requested, Senate Bill 5247, was approved by a key state Senate committee last night.

The bill would allow us, when considering premium rates proposed by non-profit health insurers, to take into account the large surpluses that the companies have built up in recent years. (Surpluses are not the same thing as reserves. Theres' been some confusion out there on this point.)

These surpluses have grown dramatically over the past decade. The state's three major nonprofit health insurers together now have more than $2.4 billion in surplus.

Meanwhile, the cost of individual health policies more than doubled from 2005 to 2011.

At least 11 other states, including neighboring Oregon, have the authority to consider surpluses when reviewing rates. We think it's time Washington did the same.

What's a health care exchange?

Stateline, a news service that covers state government, put together a story summarizing the new health care exchanges scheduled to launch in 2014, how they work, and the status of the efforts to create them at the state level. From the article:

Considered the engines of the national health law, state exchanges are online marketplaces designed to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to shop for insurance policies. They will also be one-stop enrollment centers for low-income people who qualify for Medicaid and moderate income individuals who qualify for federal tax credits.

There's a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work taking place in Olympia in preparation for these exchanges. Again, from Stateline's article:

One small group of states — led by Maryland, Washington, Oregon, Rhode Island and California — is running significantly ahead of the rest. Statutes have been enacted to create the exchanges and the basic decisions about how to run them have already been made.
Our office and Gov. Chris Gregoire have also requested additional exchange legislation in Washington this year.