For Consumers

Kreidler to Congress: Act now to stabilize individual health insurance markets

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HELP committee commissioners

September 6, 2017

Olympia, WASH – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler testified earlier today before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee in Washington, D.C. The hearing, “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018” was led by the Chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). 

Kreidler joined four other insurance commissioners from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Oklahoma in urging Congress to take appropriate steps to protect consumers. 

He shared Washington’s success story in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but told the committee members, “Washington state is not immune from the instability caused by the growing uncertainty and actions by the current administration. 

“We’ve made tremendous progress in lowering our uninsured rate and our individual market has remained relatively stable since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014. But this year has been a serious jolt to our system, with fewer insurers and higher proposed rate increases."

Kreidler said he was encouraged by the bipartisan effort to hear from insurance regulators who have direct experience with these markets. He encouraged Congress to take quick action to stem the growing uncertainty for consumers and insurers. Kreidler recommended:

  • Permanently fund cost-sharing reduction payments
  • Create a federal reinsurance program – similar to what was in place during the early years of the ACA, which helped lower premiums
  • Ensure that any innovations granted to states protect coverage and affordability 

“I’m very hopeful that we can build on today’s bipartisan hearing and find common ground to protect this insurance market that more than 330,000 Washingtonians rely on for health coverage,” said Kreidler. 

In closing, he added that Washington state has direct experience with ignoring the warning signs of an unstable insurance market and shared the state’s story from the 1990s when, after successfully passing health reform, the state Legislature repealed critical portions just a few years later. 

The repeal caused chaos and ultimately, every health insurer left Washington’s individual health insurance market 

“If you ignore the early warning signs of instability, the market will collapse,” said Kreidler. “Let me be your harbinger – it can and will happen if you do not take action now.” 

Read Commissioner Kreidler's written testimony