Washington State: 15 carriers file for 2021 #ACA market; Public Option plans to launch as well

Washington State's insurance commissioner's office just announced the state's 2021 Individual Health Insurance Market participants. While they won't be announcing the proposed 2021 premium rate changes until June 1st, there's still several important developments in this press release:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Fifteen health insurers filed 183 plans for Washington’s 2021 individual health insurance market — with two new insurers entering: UnitedHealthcare of Oregon and Community Health Network of Washington. 

The filings indicate a strong response from health insurers to provide more choice for consumers during the current coronavirus pandemic. They also show that individuals in all counties in Washington will have at least two options for coverage in 2021, a distinct change from recent years.  

The response also indicates that health insurers believe the individual market in Washington is stable despite repeated federal attempts to undermine it. 

“Washington state fully embraced the Affordable Care Act and we’re seeing the benefits today, as we face the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Despite ongoing attacks from the Trump administration, the ACA’s reforms have helped create reliable access to quality health insurance for individuals and their families and a stable marketplace where insurers want to do business.”

These are the first filings under Washington’s new Cascade Care, which includes standardized plan designs and the country’s first public option health plan program. The state Health Care Authority is in charge of running the procurement for public option plans and will release information in late June. 

Proposed rate changes and premiums for all plans will be announced on June 1. 

All 39 counties will have at least two insurers selling through Washington’s exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. Ten insurers are selling plans outside of the exchange. 

See proposed 2021 individual health insurers and plans by county (PDF, 154.21 KB)

“We still have work to do to lower the cost of health care and out-of-pocket costs, but with so many people losing their jobs and their employer-sponsored health care, I’m grateful we’re seeing such a robust market for those who will rely on these options now more than ever,” Kreidler said.

Approximately 282,000 people who don’t get coverage from their employer must buy their own health insurance through the individual market, with most shopping on the Exchange. Approximately 19,500 people enrolled during a special enrollment period from March 10 through May 8 that the Washington Health Benefit Exchange launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Washington, 65% of people who buy plans on the Exchange qualify for subsidies that help lower their monthly premiums. 

The Washington state Legislature enacted Cascade Care last year, creating new coverage options (standardized plans and public option plans) that will be available through the exchange during open enrollment starting Nov. 1 for coverage effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Kreidler’s office will review all proposed health plans and rate changes over the next several months, with decisions coming in the fall. The health insurers may adjust their requested rates and offerings during this time as they re-evaluate their projections based on the impact of the pandemic.