Legislators Must Get Health Insurance Exchange Right

Regence BlueShield supports the development of a health insurance exchange that adds value to consumers. The creation of a stable, viable health insurance Exchange is critical to the future of health care in Washington, which is why we believe it is of paramount importance that the legislature gets the details right.

Considering only the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a monumental amount of work to be done if the Exchange is to be ready to begin enrolling individuals and small employers in October 2013. The Exchange legislation should focus on this foundational work instead of added complexity and regulatory control.

In order for the Exchange to first help those in which it is intended, it must at a minimum be compliant with the ACA. Only once a stable exchange is up and running should the state consider adding additional requirements that are based on evidence and thorough discussion amongst all interested parties. To accomplish this, we believe the legislation adopted this session should adhere to the following criteria:

—  Any market participation rules must not de-incentive competition and new market entrants

—  The state should focus on operating the exchange in a fiscally responsible manner and not pursue additional options that can destabilize the exchange risk pool such as including the Basic Health option

—  The exchange board should be given authority to administer the exchange, but all major policy decisions should be left to the legislature

—  Only those criteria for qualified health plans mandated by the ACA should be required at this time

—  The Washington High-risk Insurance Pool (WSHIP) should remain open beyond 2014 and ideally should be given the authority to implement and administer the three risk mitigation mechanisms in the ACA

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) should be established based on small group employer benefits, but the legislature should reserve the right to add mandated benefits should it find that all 10 categories of essential benefits are not being met Legislation following these criteria would allow the state to move forward in a meaningful – but appropriately deliberate – way in development of our Exchange

We stand committed to working with legislators and other stakeholders to make sure the legislation enacted gets it right. Regence has served Washingtonians by providing them with access to quality health care for more than 90 years, and we hope to be able to continue doing for many more in the changing health care environment.

Christopher Bandoli leads the public policy efforts on behalf of Regence of Washington.  He can be reached at christopher.bandoli@regence.com.