SEATTLE (AP) -- Competition is growing in Washington's health insurance market.
Four more companies want to join the state's health insurance exchange, and one has applied to sell health insurance in the individual market outside the state-run exchange, the state insurance commissioner announced earlier this week.
If the companies' applications are successful, residents of every Washington county will have at least one more choice for health insurance when enrollment opens again in November. The state also would be able to open its promised statewide insurance marketplace for small businesses if a proposal by Moda Health Plan Inc. is approved.
Washington consumers will benefit from the increased competition, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said.
"I expect that we'll have even more robust markets inside and outside of the exchange for 2015. Increased competition is part of health care reform, and that's what we are seeing," Kreidler said.
Eight companies currently sell health insurance through Washington's health exchange, but residents of some counties had only one choice of insurance company during the first open enrollment period that ended in March.
The companies that want to join the exchange are: Columbia United Providers, Health Alliance Northwest Health Plan, Inc., UnitedHealthcare of Washington Inc. and Moda.
They would join BridgeSpan Health Company, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care Corporation, Molina Healthcare of Washington, Premera BlueCross, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, Group Health Cooperative, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.
Moda also wants to join Kaiser in offering plans to small businesses in 2015 through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). In 2014, the SHOP program was piloted by Kaiser in two counties, Clark and Cowlitz.
The next step will be a check of the proposed health plans to see if they include the 10 essential health benefits set by the national Affordable Care Act. Those benefits include coverage for prescription drugs and maternity care.
Open enrollment for all health plans both inside and outside the Washington exchange begins Nov. 15. Proposed rates for coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015, is expected to be available by May 10.
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