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2 more health insurers get preliminary OK for Wash. exchange.


By Donna Gordon Blankinship / Associated Press
Posted: August 31, 2013 - 1:15 pm ET
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Washington's insurance commissioner announced Friday he has reached a settlement and approved two more health insurers for the state's new healthcare exchange, which is Washington's contribution to healthcare reform.

The two companies—Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan—were originally rejected for the Healthplanfinder because they didn't meet all the federal regulations.

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Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said his office has worked closely with the two companies to fix their proposals and now they meet all requirements. The Community Health Plan had set different rates for two tiers of doctors and has fixed that. Kaiser had to make its rate information more complete.

They join others that were previously given preliminary approval by Kreidler: Bridgespan, Group Health Cooperative, Premera Blue Cross and LifeWise, a subsidiary of Premera.

Two other companies—Molina Healthcare of Washington and Coordinated Care Corporation—are still working through the appeal process. Moda Health Plan Inc., did not appeal its exclusion from the exchange.

Kreidler said he made the decision to disapprove some plans on July 31 because he did not believe they met rigorous state and federal standards. He knew he would be criticized by some for that decision.

"I've worked for meaningful health reform my entire career," Kreidler said. "I'd much rather face the political fallout that my decision may have caused than know I set consumers up to be harmed in the future by plans that don't deliver what they promise."

The board for the state health exchange plans to vote next Wednesday on the plans that have been approved by the insurance commissioner. Instead of voting on 31 total insurance plans, the board will now consider 41 choices.

Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, thanked the insurance commissioner for his efforts and said adding two more insurance companies to the exchange was welcome news.

The first open enrollment period for people who need to buy health insurance begins Oct. 1.

Earlier this week, the federal government gave Washington state a few extra days to consider which plans would be part of its health insurance exchange so the insurance commissioner and the board of the exchange could have a little more time to make their decisions.

All states setting up an exchange have been working to meet the firm Oct. 1 deadline set in the federal health care reform law and the delay in approving plans will not affect Washington's ability to meet that deadline, said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the exchange.

Only insurance companies approved now will be able to offer individual health insurance through Washington's exchange during the open enrollment period, between Oct. 1 and March 31, 2014. Other companies will have to wait to join next year, during the second open enrollment period, Oct. 15-Dec. 7, 2014.


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