Washington State: 2016 *approved* rate increases: 4.2% weighted avg. (potentially up to 5%)

Way back in early June, Washington State reported that the overall average requested individual market rate increases for 2016 came in at 5.4%, which is pretty darned good.

Just now, the state insurance commissioner reported that the approved weighted average increase next year will be even lower: Just 4.2%:

OLYMPIA, Wash. –The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has approved 136 individual health plans from 12 insurers who will offer them to the Exchange, Wahealthplanfinder, for sale in 2016. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board is scheduled to certify the approved insurers and their plans at its board meeting later today.  

The companies requested an average rate change of 5.4 percent, but 4.2 percent was approved.

Also, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest (Kaiser), Moda, and UnitedHealthcare of Washington, Inc. (United) have been approved to sell inside Washington Healthplanfinder Business. Moda and United intend to sell statewide and Kaiser will be available only in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

“Once again, we are seeing an increased interest from health insurers,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “The level of competition in our market today is clear evidence that health reform is working in Washington state.”

In 2015, 10 health insurers were approved to sell 90 plans in the Exchange.

It's important to note that technically speaking, the 4.2% weighted average is not the full story, because 4 companies are still under review (3 of them are off-exchange only, 1 is new to the exchange):

Three health insurers -- Asuris, Group Health Options, and Regence Blue Shield of Oregon -- filed to sell individual plans only outside of the Exchange. Also, Coordinated Care Corporation filed plans to be offered inside the Exchange. These companies’ plans and rates are still under review.

The average rate change for the entire individual market will be revised once our review is completed.

However, Asuris only has around 3,000 enrollees and only requested a 0.93% hike anyway while Group Health Options has just 9,400 enrollees and asked for a 5.9% decrease in premium rates. If approved, both of these would reduce the total weighted average even further. Regence BlueShield of Oregon only has 4,100 enrollees and only asked for a 1.25% hike.

On the other hand, Coordinated Care requested a 13.17% hike and has a substantial market share; if that's approved the total average will increase.

2016 insurers with plans approved to be certified by the Exchange, Wahealthplanfinder:

  • Bridgespan Health Company
  • Columbia United Providers
  • Community Health Plan of Washington
  • Group Health Cooperative
  • Health Alliance Northwest Health Plan, Inc.*
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest
  • LifeWise Health Plan of Washington
  • Moda Health Plan, Inc.
  • Molina Healthcare of Washington, Inc.
  • Premera Blue Cross
  • Regence BlueShield*
  • United Healthcare of Washington, Inc.*

*New to the Exchange individual market for 2016

As far as I can tell, if all 4 of the missing companies have their requests approved as is, here's what the actual state-wide weighted average should end up looking like:

In other words, the worst-case scenario would be a 5% total weighted-average increase. Until I hear otherwise, however, the official word is 4.2% (and even if it ends up being 5.0%, that'd still be lower than the 5.2% avg. request from earlier this year).