We were shocked by the Commissioner’s action and press statement this morning. This gross politicization of such a complex regulatory problem does not help address the very real economic challenges of providing coverage to Washingtonians seeking individual insurance policies, especially children.
Over the past several months, we have had at least five separate conversations with the Commissioner and his staff regarding planned changes to how we would cover children under age 19. Our goal in those discussions was and continues to be a solution that would allow us to serve all of our individual members – including children – without exacerbating costs and increasing coverage risks for the entire pool. Never once did the Commissioner or his staff express any concern that these changes might violate state law. We’re disappointed that the Commissioner appears to have suddenly changed his perspective.
The fact is that Regence continues to cover thousands of Washington’s children, just as we have for nearly a century. It is important to stress that our eligibility changes do not apply to those insured members covered under small or large group policies. We’ve been very clear that we will insure kids during open enrollment periods when the child is not the sole subscriber -- and we will do so regardless of health status. Dozens of carriers across the country have found it necessary to adopt similar policies.
We disagree with the Commissioner’s action today and will consider how it might impact our ability to offer coverage to all individuals across the state. While more than ten carriers have deserted Washington’s individual market -- leaving three today -- Regence has continued to insure these members despite losses of more than $33 million in the last three years. While we remain committed to our individual members, we simply cannot expose our broader membership to greater risk. Therefore, we believe the changes we made are in the best interest of the nearly one million Washingtonians we serve today.
Washingtonians want and need an equitable, stable insurance market that people can afford. We want to avoid the mistakes of the 1990’s when a small minority was allowed to game the insurance system by purchasing insurance only when they were sick, which led to rate spikes and the collapse of the individual market.
We continue to serve Washington State and our commitment to it remains firm. We look forward to working with the Commissioner, community leaders and our members to resolve these and other ongoing problems in the health care system.
About Regence BlueShield:
Regence BlueShield is a leading health plan in Washington with more than one million members, offering health, life and dental insurance. Regence is the largest health insurer in the Northwest / Intermountain Region, serving nearly 2.5 million members as Regence BlueShield (selected counties in Washington), Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah. Each plan is a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Regence is committed to improving the health of our members and our communities, and to transforming our health care system. For more information, please visit www.regence.com or www.twitter.com/RegenceWA.