-By Phil Castell
Phew! What a nail biter! For the past few days, we have been waiting to see if the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) would approve any additional companies, and then, if the Exchange Board would certify what the OIC approved.
It came close to the final wire but the certifications have been made. In addition to the offerings from Bridgespan (Regence affiliate), Premera/Lifewise, and Group Health, which were approved by the OIC at the end of July, two companies were approved in the past few days. They are Molina, Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Permenente.
On September 4, all these companies were certified by the Exchange.
What does this mean for us here on the peninsula? Not a gosh darn bit of difference since the new additions did not wish to offer their plans in Clallam or Jefferson counties. We still have the plans offered by Premera and Lifewise for folks who purchase within the Exchange.
Late afternoon on September 5, it was announced that the OIC had approved another company within the Exchange. The new company is Coordinated Healthcare and they will be offering an HMO type product in a number of counties, BUT NOT in our area.
In reading between the lines, I have a feeling that yet another company is attempting to get their plans approved by the OIC and certified by the Exchange Board in order to offer plans in 22 days’ time.
In a personal email I received from a highly ranked employee of the OIC, he stated “We expect that there will continue to be a robust “external” market for consumers in the state”.
From that statement and in reviewing non exchange plans submitted but not yet approved by the OIC, we should see a number of options for folks who do not purchase within the exchange.
Finally, there is a little item that will cause concern if you are not prepared for it. I call this “Uncle Sam has hired Big Brother”.
As part of the online enrollment process you will be asked to confirm your identity. Sounds simple, but how will the system really know it is you and not someone else with your basic information?
The administration has hired a credit reporting agency to help verify the income and identity of people applying for coverage within the exchange.
Questions I have seen include things like:
How many bedrooms are in your home?
What is the model year of the car you purchased or leased prior to 2009?
If you took out an auto loan or lease around 2012 what range does your monthly payment fit into?
These are questions that will make you wonder, “Just how does the state know the answer to that?” I know I was surprised when I saw the types of questions asked.
We are now within a month of enrollment and I am sure I will be surprised at least a few more times between now and then.
Next week we hope to have some answers for small businesses and non-profit organizations that want to help cover their employees.
The following link is for a news program from the TVW channel (the CSPAN type channel for all things related to Washington) that aired Thursday, September 5. In two separate segments, the program interviewed Mike Kreidler, the Insurance Commissioner, and Richard Onizuka, the CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Excahange.
I found it fascinating to hear from the two heads of their respective organizations for the reasoning behind some of their decisions.