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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two health insurance companies pull out of Washington individual market

Brad Finnegan demonstrates the Washington Healthplanfinder website, where consumers can shop for health insurance, following a news conference Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Seattle. The state will see a drop in the number of companies providing health insurnace next year. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Two health insurance companies will quit offering individual plans in Washington state next year, leaving the state with 11. Some companies that remain will drop areas where they offer coverage, and two counties will have no company offering individual plans.

While the drop is likely to fuel efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, some state officials blamed the drop on those efforts.

“The proposed drop in insurers and coverage areas clearly indicates to me that the uncertainty the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress has sowed for months is sabotaging the progress we’ve made,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat, said in announcing the lineup of companies and their plans for next year.

Grays Harbor and Klickitat counties will have no company offering plans in the individual market, Kreidler said. Between the two counties, some 3,300 people currently have individual plans.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said while it’s hard to get the same coverage in rural areas, the overall drop in companies is a response to their uncertainty about what changes Congress and the Trump administration will make regarding health care.

Kreidler said he would be “reaching out” to companies, asking them to reconsider and offer plans in the two counties. If not, the state could offer coverage through its high-risk pool, but those policies would not be eligible for subsidies that help lower the costs to low-income subscribers.

Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for the commissioner’s office, said the problem for insurers in mainly rural areas like those two counties is putting together an affordable network of doctors and other health care providers that include medical specialists.

Individuals who don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t have health care coverage for themselves or their families through their employer can purchase insurance through the state’s Healthplanfinder exchange, or on their own outside the exchange. A total of 71 plans with different levels of coverage and costs have been filed for that individual market.

The exchange will have six companies offering plans, the outside market seven. Two of those companies will be selling both inside and outside the exchange, making the total 11. That’s down from 13 total companies this year, and 15 in 2015.

The Community Health Plan of Washington and the former Group Health options program did not submit plans to operate in the state next year.

Some companies that filed to operate in parts of Washington next year pulled back from some areas they serve this year. For example, Asuris Northwest Health and BridgeSpan Health Co. are currently offering individual policies in Spokane County, but do not plan to offer them next year.

Under the list Kreidler’s office released Thursday, Spokane will have individual plans offered from Coordinated Care Corp., Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Lifewise Health Plan, Molina Healthcare and Premera Blue Cross through the exchange and Kaiser Foundation outside the exchange.