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Wash. Health Insurance Rates To Increase, But By Less Than In Recent Years

Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The cost of health insurance for individuals is probably going up next year in Washington, but in a key test of the market under the Affordable Care Act, the rate hikes will be lower than in recent years.

How Obamacare would affect insurance rates has been one of the law’s big mysteries. There weren’t big price hikes this year, but now that the law has been fully in effect for some months, would there be a big jump for 2015?

According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the answer is no. In paperwork filed with the OIC, the 17 insurance companies have asked for an average increase of 8.25 percent increase. Commissioner Mike Kreidler says that's the smallest increase in seven years.

“I think what we’re seeing here is that we have a very competitive market here in the state of Washington. Insurers are sharpening their pencils as they come in. They want to make sure they don’t lose market share,” Kreidler said.  

But Bill Hinkle, a former Republican lawmaker who sits on the health exchange board, says this kind of rate hike is nothing to celebrate.

“I think sometimes Mike and I live on different planets,” Hinkle said. “Somehow if it’s still 9 percent, we’re supposed to be happy. I think that’s kind of a problem.”

The rate changes companies are asking for range from a 26 percent hike to a seven percent decrease.  

The commissioner’s office can still tweak the rates before approving them. In recent years they’ve come in a bit lower than what the companies asked for.

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