If you are buying health insurance for yourself and or your family, you have seen notices from your company about rate hikes coming in January 2013. LifeWise, Regence BlueShield and Group Health have filed with the Office of Insurance for rate increases. Their requests were not granted. That is , the amount of increase they sought was not approved. Instead, the OIC approved rate increases lower than what the companies needed or wanted.
What is driving these rate increases? Several factors including rising costs of health care in general, mandated benefits (58 at last count) initiated by our OIC in Olympia, and new regulations and mandates involved with the PPACA (Health Care Reform).
What is coming in the future? The PPACA is the law of the land. Effects of the new law started showing up in 2011 and continued in 2012. For 2013 there are several new segments of the law being instituted. New taxes, new mandates and regulations are being implemented now and yet even more are being written as time goes on.
By October 2013 we should have a Health Insurance Exchange up and running. The new government program has a new name - Washington Health Plan Finder - and can be tracked at this web site www.hca.wa.gov/hcr/exchange
The Health Care Authority is in charge of establishing WHPF. The HCA testified to the Office of Insurance in the fall of 2012 that A) the WHPF will cost about $50 Million a year to operate, B) health insurance premiums may be 70% higher than similar plans offered on the market today.
Interestingly, the OIC operates on about $50 Million every biennium and gets most of its funding from premium taxes levied on all insurance companies operating in Washington. The WHPF will operate for a couple of years on Federal grants but must be self-sustaining by 2015 when that Federal money dries up. The WHPF has no idea how they can afford to operate and is trying to figure it out.
In my opinion, we are in for a rough ride over the next couple of years. I will be involved in helping people navigate the new choices coming in the fall of 2013. Watch for updates to this subject. If you want to be notified by email of unfolding details, let me know.