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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Bette in Spokane,’ cited in McMorris Rodgers’ speech, declined health insurance options

The woman described only as “Bette in Spokane” during a nationally televised address by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Wednesday she had no idea her frustrations over increasing insurance premiums would become part of the Republican attack on health care reform.

Not that Bette Grenier, a critic of the Affordable Care Act, minds that much.

But the “nearly $700 per month” increase in her premium that McMorris Rodgers cited in Tuesday night’s GOP response to the State of the Union address was based on one of the pricier options, a $1,200-a-month replacement plan that was pitched by Asuris Northwest to Grenier and her husband, Don.

The carrier also offered a less expensive, $1,052-per-month option in lieu of their soon-to-be-discontinued catastrophic coverage plan. And, Grenier acknowledged the couple probably could have shaved another $100 a month off the replacement policy costs by purchasing them from the state’s online portal, the Health Plan Finder website, but they chose to avoid the government health exchanges.

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“I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all,” said Grenier, 58, who lives in the Chattaroy area and owns a roofing company with her husband. “We liked our old plan. It worked for us, but they can’t offer it anymore.”

The description of Grenier’s plight, along with the fact that McMorris Rodgers used only the woman’s first name in the televised address, sparked speculation among liberal bloggers and others that the figures may not hold up to scrutiny.

In Olympia, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler didn’t dismiss the possibility but was skeptical that someone would have no choice but to pay $700 per month more for a policy that meets the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements.

Kreidler, interviewed before Grenier’s identity had been learned, said he hoped “Bette in Spokane” would contact his office so he could help make sure she’s aware of all of the options available to her.

McMorris Rodgers’ office provided no explanation Wednesday on what steps were taken to verify the figures.

Melanie Colette, McMorris Rodgers’ spokeswoman, would only say Bette is “one of hundreds of people in Eastern Washington that have contacted the congresswoman with their concerns about the president’s health care law.”

Grenier, contacted Wednesday evening at her home, said she didn’t know McMorris Rodgers had mentioned her insurance travails during the GOP rebuttal.

“That probably was me she was referring to,” Grenier said. “A guy from her office called me last week but I never called him back.”

She said she contacted the congresswoman late last year to complain after getting a letter from Asuris Northwest advising that her $552-a-month policy no longer would be offered. She sent the congresswoman’s office a copy of the letter, which included the rate quotes for the suggested replacement policies.

Although the couple’s catastrophic plan had a $10,000 deductible, it included four doctor visits per year at no additional out-of-pocket cost, she said.

The replacement policies offer lower deductibles and broader coverage, she said, but they didn’t include the doctor visits at no extra charge.

Fed up with what they considered limited, pricey choices, she said she and her husband have decided to go without coverage.

“I know some people seem to be getting good deals, but we’re not,” Grenier said. “I have a friend – she and I fight about this stuff all the time – and she got a great deal: $129 a month.”

Kreidler acknowledged his office, too, has been getting a lot of complaints from people who had health care plans that did not meet the minimum requirements of the new law. They received notices late last year from their companies saying those policies were being canceled and suggesting a new plan. Most paid the same or less, but some paid more.

“Most of those paid more because it was better coverage,” he said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story described the $1,200 replacement plan as the priciest option, but Grenier contacted the newspaper after the article was published to say she had looked over her paperwork again and wanted to point out that there was an even more expensive plan offered by her carrier, which would have been $1,679 per month, she said.