Washington health insurers seek 13.5% rate hikes

Health insurance companies that sell individual policies in Washington state have sought to hike their rates by an average of 13.5 per cent in 2017.

Those rate requests announced yesterday are being reviewed by the office of the state insurance commissioner.

According to insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler the larger than usual rate hike requests showed that the individual insurance market was still under development. He added insurance companies were losing money selling to individuals and rate hikes could have been requested even last year.

Kreidler, however, noted that people who could not afford the higher rates stood to benefit from an increase in government subsidies.

Meanwhile, two of the companies that had sold health insurance to individuals and families statewide had informed state officials they were dropping out of the market.

The increase sought by the insurance companies is being considered by the state. But Kreidler was disappointed with the large increase, but understood the insurers predicament.

''That hurts people.  And I want to do everything I possibly can to make sure that we don't see this in the future,  News Radio KPQ reported in its online edition.  But it was still part of the shakedown period, where insurers did not know what rates they should ideally be charging.

According to Kreidler if rates were to increase, people in Washington who could not afford them would benefit from a boost in government subsidies.

It would be Kreidler's decision to grant or reject the increase sought by insurers. He noted that his decision could be challenged in court.

''I've never had that happen in the past.  I don't want to start a trend.  So I've got to be careful that where I push back on them, they're going to recognise that that is the appropriate answer to the question, and it means not getting as much of a rate increase as they had proposed.''

According to Kreidler, despite the requested rate hikes, the Washington health care exchange was in good shape.

He noted that a large percentage of participants did not even qualify for subsidies, meaning they were choosing to work through the exchange.