Monday, November 30, 2015

Health insurers must provide transparency tools to consumers on Jan. 1

Health insurers are required to provide transparency tools via their websites starting Jan. 1, 2016, to consumers who are enrolled in their plans. The tools provide information about treatment costs, quality of care and other patients’ experience with the medical providers. These tools have not been readily available to consumers before now. The requirement is in the Affordable Care Act and is being implemented in Washington state now.

Each insurer must provide written verification to the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner by Feb. 1 of each year that the company is in compliance with this state law, which was enacted by the 2014 Legislature. The OIC provides a form for health insurers to fill out and send to us, called an attestation. We are required to post the form 60 days before it's due.

You can read more about the rules the OIC wrote to implement this requirement, which were recently adopted, or about the state law (RCW 48.43.007). The OIC also provided instructions and the attestation form for insurers to return to us by Feb. 1, 2016.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tips for holiday travelers

Are you traveling for the upcoming holiday? Here are some travel tips to help keep you safe and informed.


Traveling by plane
Other travel tips

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Columbia United Providers will notify enrollees about withdrawal from Washington market

Columbia United Providers (CUP) this week informed the Office of the Insurance Commissioner that it is voluntarily withdrawing from the individual health insurance market.

The company, which is based in Vancouver, Wash., also said that it intends to sell its Medicaid business to Molina Healthcare. That proposal is subject to approval by the Insurance Commissioner.

Here are answers to some questions about CUP’s announcement:

Why did CUP voluntarily withdraw from Washington?

The company cited business reasons for the voluntary withdrawal.

How does CUP’s withdrawal affect the Washington health insurance market?

CUP offered individual plans in Clark County only. As of November 2015, CUP had fewer than 100 enrollees in the individual market. These plans were offered only through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. The company also managed insurance coverage for about 55,000 enrollees in Medicaid plans in Clark County. The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) oversees Medicaid in Washington.

HCA is aware of CUP’s withdrawal from the Washington market and its proposal to sell its Medicaid business to Molina Healthcare.

How does this affect those who enrolled in Exchange plans?

The Health Benefit Exchange is aware of CUP’s withdrawal and proposed sale. The Exchange is reaching out to any enrollees who selected CUP for 2016 to assist them in choosing another plan. CUP 2015 enrollees will be covered through the end of the year and can select alternate coverage for 2016. Any CUP enrollee who wants to change coverage for the remainder of 2015 may request a special enrollment.

How will current enrollees be notified CUP’s decision?

The company is responsible for notifying, by Nov. 19, 2015, all individuals who have purchased individual coverage through CUP, to be effective on or after Jan. 1, 2016, that their coverage is terminated. The company’s plans will no longer be listed on the Washington Healthplanfinder.

Even with CUP’s voluntary withdrawal, Washington remains a competitive market with a wide selection of choices. There are five companies that sell individual plans in Clark County. Overall in Washington, there are 14 insurers and more than 200 plans available for consumers for coverage in 2016.

Will existing claims be paid?

Washington state insurance law requires that all claims be paid and that company make plans for payment. At this time there is no concern about the company paying existing claims for enrollees in its Washington plans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

OIC has saved auto insurance consumers nearly $26 million since 2010

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner's rate decisions have saved auto insurance consumers nearly $26 million in premiums since 2010.

Personal auto insurers are required to file their proposed rates and rating plans with our office whenever there's a rate change. Our actuaries review the proposed rates, rating plans, and supporting documentation to be sure that the rates are not excessive, inadequate or discriminatory.

From 2010 through 2014, the rates we approved for the top 20 personal auto insurers in Washington saved consumers nearly $26 million in premiums.
  • 2014: $6.2 million 
  • 2013: $8.9 million 
  • 2012: $5.6 million 
  • 2011: $2.7 million 
  • 2010: $2.7 million 
Read more about auto insurance in Washington state.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Washington wildfire victims: Hire smart when repairing, rebuilding

As Washington consumers begin to rebuild and repair their homes and businesses after this summer's wildfires, we are partnering with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to share this message: Hire registered contractors.

Unregistered contractors often have no bond or liability insurance, don’t get building permits, and fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. It’s a risky combination that leaves property owners financially vulnerable if workers are injured on their property or the contractor does shoddy work – or takes a down payment and never returns.

Construction contractors are required to register with L&I. In turn, L&I confirms that they have a business license, liability insurance and a bond – requirements that give property owners some monetary recourse if something goes wrong.

Hiring registered contractors provides the best chance for success and to protect your investment.

Hire Smart to avoid rebuilding and repair headaches
  • Verify your prospective contractor’s registration at or call 1-800-647-0982.
  • Get at least three written bids.
  • Check contractor references.
  • Pay only as work is completed.