Premiums drop, coverage expands in Washington's exchange

Despite predictions of rate shocks, most consumers in Washington state will actually see lower premiums and enhanced coverage when they buy insurance through the state's health insurance exchange.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler on Tuesday released rates proposed by insurers, including Premera Blue Cross, Lifewise, Group Health Cooperative, BridgeSpan and Molina Health Care of Washington, for health plans they will sell on the state-run online marketplace, called the Washington Health Plan Finder, reported the Spokesman-Review.

And those prices don't include federal subsidies available to consumers, so the premiums that consumers will pay actually will be less than the rates proposed.

"We're pleasantly surprised with the individual rates we've seen so far," Kreidler said. "In many cases, people will get better benefits and pay less--especially if they qualify for subsidies."

For example, Premera's existing individual plans for 21-year-old non-smokers cost $325 each month with a $1,800 deductible. But the insurer proposed a $276 monthly premium for the same plan to be available in the exchange--a 15 percent decrease, the Associated Press reported.

Although Premera previously warned that premiums could rise as much as 70 percent within the exchange, spokesman Eric Earling said the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services simplified certain issues over the winter, KPIU reported. "Each customer's experience with new rates will be different, because of changes due to the Affordable Care Act," Earling said. "These are new and different products than what is available today. It will vary a lot."

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- see the Spokesman-Review article
- check out the KPIU article

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