Friday, June 12, 2009

Washington State Increases Basic Health Plan Premiums To Drive Poor Off The Rolls

Basic Health Plan premiums to rise sharply

By Kyung M. Song
Seattle Times health reporter

Premiums for Washington's Basic Health Plan will as much as double in January as part of a strategy to drive thousands of members off the popular but cash-strapped state-subsidized insurance program.

Ending weeks of deliberations, officials announced this morning that they will boost Basic Health's rates by an average of 70 percent as part of their effort to boot 30,000 to 40,000 working-class people off its rolls.

Officials rejected four other potential options on how to shrink the 100,000-member pool, including a lottery and ejecting members based on how long they'd been on the program.

In the end, officials punted on the dilemma, leaving it up to the members themselves to decide whether to stay or to leave.

"This is the best possible option out of difficult choices," said Preston Cody, deputy administrator of Washington State Health Care Authority, the agency that operates Basic Health.

Currently, Basic Health's premiums range from $17 to $281 a month, depending on the member's age, income and county of residence. Starting in January, the poorest members with incomes below the poverty level will pay twice as much, $34 or $45.

Rates for higher-income enrollees will go up by about 50 percent, to about $400 a month for those 55 and older. This will be the biggest premium increase in the program's 21-year history.

In all, the average monthly premium for all members will climb to $61.60 from $36. Yet even with the increases, the average person will still will be paying only 25 percent of the actual cost of coverage, with the state chipping in the rest.

1 comment:

  1. They could always make the rich pay their fair share in taxes.