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Washington health insurance costs going up by 13 percent

(AP)

It’s time for the annual edition of, “What’s My Health Insurance Going to Cost Next Year?”

While 2019 is still two months away, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is reminding Washingtonians that the open enrollment period for state health insurance is only a week away. The enrollment period for the health insurance exchange is Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. Details are on the Washington Health Plan Finder.

“It’s literally going to affect several hundred thousand people in the State of Washington,” Kreidler said.

“At which time you will have an opportunity to select the health plan that you want,” he said.  “You can either do it inside the health insurance exchange, or you can buy it outside of the health insurance exchange.”

Kreidler does note that outside of the state’s health insurance exchange, there are no subsidies for insurance plans.

Health plans costing 13 percent more

But how much will it cost? The latest rates are not as bad as they could have been. They are still going to be substantially higher.

“We had initial filings for rate requests from the health insurers for inside the exchange for 19 percent rate increase on average,” Kreidler said. “We were able to work with them to knock it down to 13 percent.”

Kreidler notes the percentages are averages. So some health plans have greater increases than others.

The average rate increase is not isolated to the state plans, either. It will be a 13 percent hike for both on the exchange and for employer plans.

“For outside the health insurance exchange, it should be very similar,” Kreidler said, adding that many of the plans inside the exchange are also being offered outside the exchange.

With a 13 percent premium increase, and inflation at about 2 percent, the cost of health insurance is going up at a little more than six times the rate of inflation.

There goes your pay raise. Unless you’ve been getting pay raises of 13 percent a year. If you were making, for example, $50,000 a year in 2008, a pay raise of 13 percent a year would have you making $170,000 today.

So there’s the key — start insisting on 13 percent annual pay raises. Actually, if insurance rates weren’t going up so fast, you might be able to get a higher pay increase because your company pays a large portion of your premium.

Tip: Know your plan

The other thing to be aware of is that as expensive as health insurance is, there can still be some nasty surprises when you try to use your coverage because of all the different deals insurance companies cut with doctors and hospitals. You may go in for treatment at a hospital that’s on your company’s list only to find that some of the doctors were not included.

“Once they are hospitalized, they may wind up having a surgical procedure performed,” Kreidler said. “The hospital is in-network, so you end up making assumptions. But then after the fact you may find out that the emergency room doctors, even though it’s in the hospital, are not in the network. Or you had a surgery and the anesthesiologist they used was not in-network.”

Surprise!

And that can mean a bill worth thousands of dollars higher than you expected.

Mid term elections

Which brings us to the mid-term election and the issue that, according to pollsters, is at the top of the list.

“That is to protect individuals with a pre-existing condition,” Kreidler said. “You have a federal lawsuit in Texas right now, which some 21 conservative attorneys general are a party to, which would eliminate the Affordable Care Act and expose individuals with pre-existing conditions to finding it unaffordable for them to have coverage for a pre-existing condition.”

“You do not want to try to deal with the cost of metastatic cancer or multiple sclerosis without having health insurance coverage that will really help you,” he said. “What we are talking about here, at stake in this election, is a push by some conservatives to abolish the Affordable Care Act and expose poor individuals with pre-existing conditions to horrendous costs that can make the different between life and death.”

President Donald Trump has promised that pre-existing conditions will be covered. Congress can impose that requirement, but once the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is gone there would be no limits on what those policies would cost.

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