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Washington State Releases Some Proposed Rates from Insurers

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

May 9, 2014 -- An early read on proposed premium changes in Washington state for 2015 shows that, so far, most health insurers want to change their rates significantly. But the adjustments range from a 6.8 percent premium decrease to a 14.2 percent hike.

Washington is giving the public a chance to see rate changes on a searchable website. The state insurance department will release more rate filing information this week.

The five initial proposals that companies have filed for individual market plans show rate increases of 14.2 percent by Group Health Options Inc. and 11.2 percent by Group Health Cooperative. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest asked for a 0.57 percent increase while Molina Healthcare of Washington Inc., requested for a 6.8 percent decrease.

One company, Columbia United Providers Inc., requested to offer a new plan for 2015.

"My initial thought is they vary a lot," said Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives Larry Levitt, who is tracking the data. "That's likely going to be true as we see other rates as well. Averages are going to be deceiving here because premium increases will vary tremendously across the country and even within rating areas as well."

The Washington database also includes information on coverage for small businesses.

The company requests are under review by regulators and may change.

Consumers would need to study the details of each plan to determine which is best for them. The insurers also were able to request adjustments in out-of-pocket spending and benefits.

Molina, for instance, said in its detailed filing that it would like to raise its total cap on out-of-pocket costs for patients who choose its silver plan option in health law exchanges from $6,350 to $6,600. Those consumers would see a deductible increase from $1,700 to $2,000, but reduced copays for several health services.

Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said that state law requires that rate information must be made public 10 days after it is filed.

Other states have different policies and schedules for releasing rate filings.

"It'll be a positive story in some places but a negative story in others," said Levitt, with health care law opponents able to point to big increases in some areas and supporters pointing to lower increases or decreases. "Possibly this year more than last year, it'll be a heavy duty game of spin."

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