Press Releases

Jaime Herrera Beutler Works to Bring Health Insurance Coverage Back to Klickitat County

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Washington, D.C., June 13, 2017 | comments
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler announced her support today for legislation that would provide immediate relief to those Klickitat County residents who will lose health insurance coverage in 2018.
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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler announced her support today for legislation that would provide immediate relief to those Klickitat County residents who will lose health insurance coverage in 2018. Jaime’s action comes after the recent announcement from Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler that no health insurers have filed to sell individual plans in Klickitat or Grays Harbor Counties in 2018. 

Jaime signed onto H.R. 1933, the Health Care Options Act of 2017, which would:

  • Allow folks in Klickitat County and any county where there are no insurance options in the exchange to purchase a state-approved insurance plan in the individual market;
  • Access the subsidies that individuals receive in counties where Obamacare exchanges have not collapsed to offset some of the cost of insurance premiums;
  • Exempt individuals in these counties from being forced to pay Obamacare’s “individual mandate” penalty of at least $695 in 2018 for not purchasing insurance. 

Additionally, Jaime also sent a letter to Commissioner Kreidler urging him to take immediate action to restore health insurance options to Klickitat County and reverse the trend of eroding Obamacare exchanges in rural counties.

The text of Jaime’s letter to Commissioner Kreidler follows and a PDF version is available here:

 

June 13, 2017

 

Dear Commissioner Kreidler,

I am writing today to express my deep concern regarding the recent announcement that residents in Klickitat County will not have a single insurer to choose from in the individual market in 2018.

According to insurance carrier filings last week, not a single insurer will provide insurance in the individual market in either Klickitat or Grays Harbor County. This development is no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to trends in rural counties since the Obamacare exchanges were fully implemented.  From the very beginning of the exchanges rural residents had few options but in 2014, Klickitat did have two insurance carriers offering plans. This year, the county is down to only one, and next year there will be none at all if a solution isn’t found.  And with this most recent troubling announcement we now learn that the number of counties with only one insurance carrier “option” has grown three-fold, from two to six of Washington’s 39 counties. Skamania County, also in my district, is now on this unfortunate list.

When the last insurer is gone from Klickitat County, more than 1,100 of its residents who purchase their health care insurance in the individual market – including 626 on the Obamacare exchange – will have no options.  Further demonstrating the poor treatment of rural communities under Obamacare, individuals in Klickitat will not be eligible for tax credits to help offset the cost of premiums; the law stipulates that only plans purchased through the exchange are eligible. 

If that weren’t enough, individuals in these counties - through no fault of their own - will still be subject to the individual mandate penalty imposed by Obamacare if they don’t purchase insurance.  In other words, these rural residents who have just been stripped of all health insurance options and the tax credits must now pay a minimum $695 penalty, even though they did nothing wrong.  When Obamacare proponents tout its “successes” in Washington state, they ignore residents in rural communities like Goldendale, Dallesport, and Lyle and turn them into second class citizens when it comes to their health care.

Particularly troubling is that in the face of all these predictable trends, state officials have engaged in after-the-fact shifting of blame and pointing to “uncertainty” stemming from the last presidential election and federal bills drafted in the past few months.  We’ve had a new President less than six months, while the state exchanges in rural areas have been deteriorating since their inception.  Attempts to fault recent developments aren’t just disingenuous; they raise fears that the state officials who hold a direct role in ensuring residents have health insurance options would rather avoid blame than do what is necessary to fix the problem. 

While I understand you are now having conversations with insurance carriers about Klickitat and Grays Harbor Counties, it’s regrettable that we have arrived in a situation where whole counties are without options in the first place.  It’s impossible to imagine the panic hundreds of rural residents are feeling after hearing this news.  I urge you find a solution, restore Klickitat County residents’ ability to purchase health insurance as soon as possible, and take whatever action is necessary to reverse this troubling trend so that additional counties are not stripped of health insurance options going forward.

 

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