Individual health insurance market stabilization – many options, careful thought needed

June 21, 2017

In the wake of the recent insurance carrier filings with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, there is substantial discussion about how to stabilize the individual health insurance market in Washington State. Similar discussions are occurring at the federal level and in other states, running the gamut from conservative to sweeping. In Nevada, for instance, the governor just vetoed a “Medicaid-for-all” option that would have offered state-sponsored health insurance to all residents, regardless of income.


In Washington State an array of market stabilization ideas have been raised so far, including expanding the state high risk pool, various reinsurance and risk corridor options, geographical rating areas and state purchasing. WSHA is actively engaged in these conversations and recently testified before the legislature to emphasize two important considerations. First, rural areas need particular attention, beyond subsidizing carriers. Over the long term, the best way to help bring down costs and improve overall health in rural areas is by addressing the specific problems in rural communities, including public health and socioeconomic factors. Second, improving access to coverage and care are crucial. Careful thought is needed to avoid unanticipated negative consequences that impact access to care, such as premiums that are too high or reimbursement that is too low. (Zosia Stanley,


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