MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Washington insurance: Health plan prices may rise; new rule set to begin

Jun 1, 2024, 8:14 AM | Updated: 9:33 am

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)...

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Washington’s individual health insurance market could be seeing a price spike. The proposed increase comes as a first-of-its-kind rule goes into effect Saturday.

According to a news release from the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) Wednesday, 13 health insurers filed an average requested rate increase of 11.3% in the individual market.

People who don’t get health insurance from their employers shop in the individual market. As cited in the release, an estimated 255,784 Washingtonians are currently enrolled in individual health plans and would be affected by the increase.

However, the OIC is still reviewing the proposed plans and their rates, and final decisions will be made in the fall.

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“I recognize that any proposed increase in price is deeply upsetting to those struggling to pay for coverage today,” OIC Commissioner Mike Kreidler said. “People should know that these rates are not final and my office will be carefully reviewing each request to validate the assumptions being made by our state’s insurers. We will do everything under our authority to ensure that any rate changes are justified.”

To see a list of proposed rate changes for the 2025 individual market, head here. The OIC also directed people to Washington’s online health insurance market to find financial subsidies that help lower monthly premiums, based on income.

According to the release, the state legislature directed the OIC to study different policy ideas that could lower the overall cost of healthcare. The findings are due Aug. 1.

Washington insurance transparency rule goes into effect Saturday

While on the topic of insurance, a transparency change rule for auto and homeowner insurance will also start June 1.

According to a press statement from the OIC, insurance companies will have to let policyholders know why their premiums have gone up. The rule is reportedly the first of its kind in the country.

“If your insurance company is going to increase your premium, you have a right to know why,” Kreidler said. “Hundreds of consumers, every year, have told us they are unable to get a clear answer from their insurance company about why they’re being charged more. This is pretty basic information that should be available, and now it will be.”

The rule will go into effect in two phases

Phase 1: Starting Saturday, insurance companies have to include a disclaimer on renewal notices or billing statements that tells the policyholder they can request more details about their premium increase. According to the release, the company then has 20 days from receiving a written request (through mail or email) to deliver a “clear, concise statement, in writing, providing a reasonable explanation for the premium increase.”

Earlier coverage: Yikes! Washington auto insurance rates blast past inflation

Phase 2: In three years, starting June 1, 2027, insurance companies must send a notice at least 20 days before renewing a policy with a 10% or more increase. The OIC also stated the requirements for explanations get more specific in this second phase. Insurance companies will have to provide a clear explanation using factors like claims history, discounts and base rate changes, among others.

The explanation can also include demographic factors like the policyholder’s age, credit history, education, gender, marital status and occupation. For auto insurance, companies might need to include the car’s garaging location, driving record, miles driver, the number of drivers and the number of vehicles on the policy. Homeowner insurance may factor in the property’s age, location and value.

The news release also noted that if policyholders believe their insurance company isn’t meeting the standards, or want to file a complaint, they can do so on the OIC’s website.

Editors’ note: This piece originally was published Thursday, May 30. It has been updated and republished multiple times since then.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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Washington insurance: Health plan prices may rise; new rule set to begin