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Options Double for Wash. Health Insurance Exchange

Paul Beaty
AP Photo

The menu of choices on Washington’s new health insurance exchange now includes 43 different plans provided by eight companies.

Consumer choice will vary by county, but every county in the state will have at least two providers to choose from.

At first, only four companies passed muster to join the exchange, which is set to take effect Oct. 1. The board that oversees it was not satisfied and withheld its certification until more options could be pursued.

The cajoling seems to have paid off, as the exchange has added three more insurance providers: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Community Health Plan of Washington, and Molina Healthcare of Washington. One more, Coordinated Care, is expected to be approved later this week.

“The board’s strong stance for increased choices for increased choices for consumers really helped convey the urgency,” said exchange CEO Richard Onizuka. “And so I think it was worth the effort.”

The final list will include as many as three Medicaid providers, which is important for people whose income is just low enough to be eligible for the government-provided insurance program. If their income fluctuates a bit, they can keep coverage with the same company, whether it’s through Medicaid or the exchange.

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