Health insurers have proposed an average rate increase of less than 1 percent for the individual market after three years of double-digit rate increases in premiums – Good news for Washingtonians, at least for now.

In addition to the proposed lower rates, the individual market is gaining two more health-insurance companies offering plans for 2020 — PacificSource Health Plans and Providence Health Plan, creating much needed healthcare options and services for consumers.

According to the CEO of the Exchange, the proposed lowering of average rates to 0.96 percent is attributed to the stability of Washington’s individual market and should help people buying health insurance through the Washington Health Benefit.

The rate filings may also indicate a positive sign that the individual marketplace is not only stabilizing but it’s creating an environment for additional healthcare companies, where families and individuals will be able to find more affordable coverage in the individual-health-insurance market.

One measure of the stability was the Exchange’s enrollment numbers for 2019. While enrollment dropped about 4 percent from 209,802 in 2019 to 201,416 this year, the number of people renewing from 2018 to 2019 increased nearly 22 percent from 133,007 to 162,058.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange released its Spring Health Coverage Enrollment Report detailing the more than 1.6 million customers – one in four Washingtonians – used Washington Healthplanfinder to access their 2019 health insurance coverage.

Nearly 200,000 customers used Washington state’s online marketplace to purchase a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) for coverage this year, adding to the more than 1.4 million residents who connected with free or low-cost health insurance through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid).

In several rural counties including Yakima, Adams, Grant, Okanogan and Pacific, nearly half of the population relied on Washington Healthplanfinder to enroll in a 2019 health insurance plan.

It’s been reported that more than 80 percent of the individual market in the state depends on Washington Healthplanfinder to purchase their health insurance. The updated enrollment totals show a changing marketplace where customers seek out coverage options and associated costs.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) will review the proposed rates and put forth a recommendation, which will be voted on by the Exchange’s board in September.

There’s a lot more work to do to lower the cost of health care and to help lower out-of-pocket costs, but the proposed rates are welcome news, for now.

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