February 21, 2018
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler urged the federal government to carefully review proposed state-based health plans in Idaho to ensure consumers continue to receive vital protections.
“The proposed state-based plans could start a domino effect throughout the country that could severely weaken consumer protections,” Kreidler said. “These plans could further increase instability in states beyond Idaho.”
Kreidler urged the federal Department of Health and Human Services to apply the requirements of the Affordable Care Act to its review of the Idaho plans.
Kreidler said he identified a number of initial concerns with the proposed Idaho state-based plans:
- Allowing insurers to consider pre-existing health conditions
- Requiring consumers to complete medical questionnaires that could result in much costlier premiums for less coverage
- Allowing older people to be charged up to five times more than younger enrollees
- Would not include maternity care in all plans
- Not permitting federal subsidies to reduce premium costs
- Limiting annual claim benefits
- Whether consumers will receive effective notice the plans do not comply with all benefits required under current federal law
“If you have diabetes or were sick with cancer and didn’t have health insurance prior to applying for this coverage, insurers would be free to deny coverage of your diabetes or cancer or charge exorbitant premiums that price you out of coverage,” Kreidler said. “I understand the desire to create more options for consumers, but we should never start down a road toward less protection. Cheaper does not necessarily translate to better.”
If the plans take hold, Kreidler said other states would likely follow suit. This would further threaten individual health insurance markets throughout the country, markets already weakened by Trump administration actions over the last year.
To bolster these markets, Kreidler recommends Congress and the Trump administration approve legislation designed to help consumers. Recent proposals by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., would restore cost-sharing reduction payments that helped insurers keep premiums and deductibles lower for consumers.
Kreidler also urged:
- Renewal of a federally funded reinsurance program that helps insurers keep premiums lower and encourages them to offer coverage in the individual market
- States to expand Medicaid to provide health coverage to more of their citizens
- States to reject the use of short-term medical plans as proposed by the Trump administration
- Restoration of federal funding for outreach efforts during annual enrollment periods