A Washington state flag (Credit: WPClipart.com)

The Washington state individual major medical insurance market could be a popular place for health insurers to be in 2021.

The state’s insurance regulators have received applications from five companies that want to sell coverage solely through the state’s Washington Healthplanfinder exchange, two companies that want to sell coverage solely off the exchange, and six companies that want to sell coverage both on and off the exchange.

(Related: State Regulators, Health Insurers Muster for Coronavirus Fight)

Two companies, Kaiser Permanente and Regence, have each applied to sell coverage both and on the exchange through two separate operating companies.

One carrier, a Washington-state-based arm of Community Health Network of Indiana, is new to the Washington Healthplanfinder.

Another carrier, UnitedHealth Group Inc,. will start offering plans on the Washington Healthplanfinder, through UnitedHealthcare of Oregon. UnitedHealth last offered coverage on the state’s exchange, through UnitedHealthcare of Washington, in 2016.

More than 200,000 people have enrolled in 2020 coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Including the two Kaiser affiliates and the two Regence affiliates separately, Washington’s individual market is on track to have a total of 15 issuers in 2021, up from 13 this year.

Washington state regulators hope to release the 2021 individual major medical rate proposals June 1.

The state hopes to announce information about the state’s new Cascade Care public option plan program in late June.

ACA Exchange Basics

Moderate Democrats in Congress created the ACA public exchange system in 2008 and 2009, to serve as an alternative to proposals for a government-run “public option” health insurance program. The exchange program was based in part on proposals developed by health insurance brokers and health insurers.

The ACA public exchange system is supposed to serve as a collection of locally run, web-based supermarket for health insurance, to make buying health insurance as easy as buying airline tickets online. The exchange programs also distribute the ACA premium tax credit subsidies, which help more than three-quarters of exchange plan users pay for their coverage.

Over the years, most Republican ACA change bills, other than pure ACA repeal bills, have suggested that the exchange system could continue to exist.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed HealthCare.gov to provide exchange services for residents of states that are unable or unwilling to run their own ACA exchange programs.

Washington state and some other states run their own exchange programs.

Washington state has usually been one of the first states to describe its pool of would-be individual major medical insurance issuers, including exchange plan issuers, for the following year.

The Commissioner’s Views

Mike Kreidler, Washington state’s insurance commissioner, is elected, and he is running for re-election this year.

He said in a comment on the 2021 product filings that Washington state has fully embraced the ACA over the years.

“We’re seeing the benefits today, as we face the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic,” Kreidler said.

The ACA has helped Washington state create a stable health insurance marketplace, Kreidler said.

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