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New Wash. Rules Target Cheap Health Plans

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Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has signed off on new rules for health plans, shrugging off criticism from insurers and medical providers.

The rules target a practice insurance companies have been relying on more lately: offering low-cost plans that cover care at fewer hospitals and other providers.

Kreidler says the new rules simply protect consumers’ right to know what they’re giving up for those lower premiums.   

“When you go in this time, you don’t have to be surprised your doctor isn’t in network any longer, and it can cost you a lot of money to go see your own doctor. Now you’re going to get real answers, and it’s going to be up to date," he said.

Both major industries affected by the rules are slamming them, for different reasons.

Insurance companies say the rules are burdensome and will limit their ability to offer cheaper choices. Hospitals say the rules don’t go far enough to make sure people have access.

Mary Kay Clunies-Ross of state Hospital Association says just because Kreidler is being pulled from both sides doesn’t mean he struck the right balance.

“Making everybody equally unhappy does not necessarily mean success. Nobody expects to be completely happy, but what we’ve been asking for is complete transparency and predictability. If nobody thinks we got that, then we didn’t,” she said.

Kreidler’s officer was flooded with comments from the interested parties last week. He wound up delaying the final rules because of all the blowback, but he says in the end, they didn’t change much.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.