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Posts tagged: health insurance

Kreidler sets new signup period because of health exchange problems

OLYMPIAWashington residents struggling with the insurance plans purchased through the state's exchange will be able to sign up for new plans through November because problems have been so hard to correct, the top insurance official said Monday.

A special enrollment period will last from Wednesday through Nov. 14, allowing customers with unresolved problems to sign up for different plans or with different companies. There’s a catch: They could lose their subsidies or any deductible credits or out-of-pocket expenses they've built up with their current plans. But for people unable to straighten out problems with payments, claims or billings for their current plan, re-enrollment in a different plan would give them coverage, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said.

“It's not a perfect solution,” Kreidler said. “But it’s an option.”

Health exchange officials argued it wasn't a good option for most people…

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

AG: Same-sex spouses to be covered in business health plans

OLYMPIA — Businesses that offer health coverage to opposite-sex spouses must also offer it to same-sex spouses, state officials said today. Insurance plans must offer equal coverage to all spouses.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sharon Ortiz issued an open letter today to the state's employers, insurance companies and benefit plan administrators that state law requires same-sex and opposite-sex spouses to be offered equal health coverage. Otherwise they run afoul of the state laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The letter follows on the heels of an agreement the attorney general's office reached with O'Reilly Automotive Inc. this spring to extent health benefits to same-sex couples after the state received a consumer protection complaint. It's not possible to send the letter to every employer in the state, Ferguson said, so the three held a joint press conference and sent the information to various e-mail lists.

The state banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2006, and voters approved a law legalizing same-sex marriage in 2012.

Ferguson said his office had only one other complaint of a company not providing health care benefits to same-sex partners and “can't take a guess” on how many others might be violating the law. But if O'Reilly, a large national company with what he termed sophisticated legal advice could be out of compliance, others could, too. He urged anyone facing discrimination on benefits for spouses to contact his office. 

Kreidler said letters were going out to the 48 insurance companies operating in the state, although his office has not received any complaints about carriers failing to offer benefits to same-sex couples. While it's possible an employer could drop benefits for opposite-sex spouses to comply with the law, the financial impact of covering the additional spouses is relatively minor, he added.

State, unions agree to slight bump in medical rates

OLYMPIA — State officials and the state employees unions have a tentative agreement that bumps the amount workers pay for health care coverage up slightly.

Right now, the state picks up 88 percent, and the employees 12 percent of the cost of medical insurance. Just a few months ago, state officials said the state couldn’t afford to keep paying such a big share, and were suggesting something in the range of 75 percent state/25 percent workers.

The state and its unions are negotiating new contracts, and have reopened some existing contracts. On Thursday night, the Washington Federation of State Employees announced they’d reached a tentative agreement:

State will pay 85 percent, employees will pay 15 percent.

Why did the state cut its request back so much? Glenn Kuper, a spokesman for the Office of Financial Management, said the most recent charges from use of the medical plans, along with new projections for costs over the next few years, indicate that the state won’t be paying as much for its workers’ health care costs. 

. State officials had projected that health costs would climb with the prospect of layoffs, as people who feared they may lose their jobs used health care while they had it. That didn’t happen. In recent months, costs declined then levelled off, Kuper said.

The tentative agreement calls for the state to pay $850 and a worker to pay $150 a month. If rates rise, they will rise by that same ratio for both parties.

This is all tentative because contracts are still under negotiation.

The Washington Policy Center says the state needs to change the way it negotiates with its unions, and give the Legislature more say in setting state wages and benefits.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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