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Washington State Panel OKs 7 Insurers For Exchange

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In the end, it was a calm affair.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board met in a special session Wednesday afternoon to vote on the certification of health plans for the state’s new online health insurance marketplace in 2014.

In less than an hour, the board voted unanimously to approve the health plans of seven insurers: Premera Blue Cross, LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, BridgeSpan, Group Health Cooperative, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest and two Medicaid insurers, Community Health Plan of Washington and Molina Healthcare of Washington.

The board’s certification is the final step in the process before the state can load data into a federal database about the health plans that will be sold through the state’s health-insurance exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder.

The board had twice put off voting on certification, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 21, then rescheduled for Aug. 29, and rescheduled a second time for Wednesday.

Board members said during previous meetings that they were concerned that the four insurers approved by Insurance Commissioner Kreidler on Aug. 1 did not provide adequate competition and choice. The board voted to delay certification to allow rejected insurers to appeal.

Kreidler announced Aug. 30 he had reached settlements with Community Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest. He announced Wednesday morning, just before the Exchange Board meeting, that he also had settled with Molina. He approved the plans of all three insurers for the exchange.

As a result of today’s vote, the board has certified 35 health plans offered by seven insurers for the exchange. The federal Office of Personnel Management is expected to certify an additional eight multi-state health plans, bringing the total number to 43.

But it’s not over yet.

Another rejected insurer, Coordinated Care, is still trying to get the commissioner’s approval. An administrative-law judge issued a ruling Tuesday night advising Coordinated Care and the commissioner’s office to work together to get the insurer through the process.

It’s unclear how that will turn out. But the Exchange Board has agreed to meet Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to vote on certifying Coordinated Care’s health plans if the insurer can gain the commissioner’s approval by then.