Bill Would Allow Pre-ACA Insurance Plans in Washington

By Steve Jackson

Efforts are underway in the Washington legislature to allow health insurance plans that do not meet Affordable Care Act standards to be again sold in Washington. Many people in Washington State lost their health insurance policies when the Affordable Care Act went into effect in January. And while president Obama said states could opt to reinstate previous plans for those who lost them, Washington State didn’t take that option.
The new plans offered under the ACA have helped many people, but some are feeling a financial pinch, according to independent Insurance broker Gary Frankie.

Frankie: “What I’ve been seeing is the lower middle class is benefitting from the Affordable Care Act. The upper middle class can afford a $1,500 payment per month. But the hardest is people who are just above the cut off for the subsidies. If there is a family of four making $80,000 in Seattle, you know that’s not a lot of money, and this family is increasing their premium by 62 percent.

Frankie was testifying at a recent hearing in the Washington Senate Health Care Committee on Senate Bill 6464, which would allow health carriers to continue to offer certain individual or small group health plans in the market that do not meet the requirements of the federal affordable care act; and allow out-of-state carriers to offer insurance products in Washington.
State Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) supports the bill, saying he wants to see more options for state residents to get affordable coverage.

Baumgartner: "The way to do that is not to have a one size fits all ,and one way to do that is offer a wider choice of health care offerings. And part of that is to offer out of state insurance, much like they offer home or auto insurance, and I think they should have the same option with healthcare.”
But Senator Andy Billig (D-Spokane) says allowing policies to be sold in the state that don’t meet the new ACA guidelines is more of a threat to consumers than some realize.

Billig: "A poor use of their funds to put money into a health plan that’s not going to protect them when they get sick. If you have a plan that doesn’t provide prescription drug coverage, and you get cancer, your medical coverage is basically useless.”

There may be another problem when it comes to reinstating the previous polices sold in Washington, or expecting those out of state polices to be sold at the same prices as they are offered in other states.
Testifying at the same Senate Health care committee, Sydney Svara of the Association of Washington Health Care Plans said any plans sold in Washington would reflect this state’s pricing:
Svara: “In the end I’m not sure you could end up buying the same policy because those products that were priced for Idaho were priced with those mandates of that state. And keep in mind they were based on the hospitals and physicians in that state. If you moved those polices to our state, you would be subject to the same pricing structure here. I’m not sure all those savings would carry over.”

The bill has passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and will receive a hearing in the Rules Committee.
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