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Choices for Health Coverage under Obamacare Coming into Focus

Gabriel Spitzer

Washington consumers will know later this week what insurance plans they’ll have to choose from on the state’s new health exchange. Insurance companies face a Tuesday deadline to submit plans to the state.

Nine have applied so far to offer products on the Washington Healthplan Finder, the online marketplace where consumers can comparison-shop for coverage. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, requires those exchanges to be open for business by Oct. 1.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says he’s happy with the number and quality of choices Washingtonians will have.

“We’re seeing rates that are coming in with these health carriers that are very competitive with the existing market, but with huge improvements in benefits and in limitations on out-of-pocket expenses. And that’s a big change for us,” Kreidler said.

Kreidler’s office will finalize the list and rates within the next few days after reviewing whether each provides all the required benefits and if the rates are “in line” with those benefits.

Kreidler says the biggest challenge for insurers has been to link up with enough doctors, hospitals and clinics in each county where they want to operate. He’s already rejected one of the companies.

He says people in Western Washington will likely have many more choices than those living east of the Cascades. But every county in the state will have at least one option on the exchange.

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