For Immediate Release: 06/08/2009
Contact: Dave Wasser 360-923-2711
Rate increases will allow continued coverage for enrollees
SEATTLE – Basic Health, a state-subsidized health insurance program for the working poor, will increase rates for its enrollees rather than force anyone off the program.
Basic Health currently covers just under 100,000 Washington residents, with enrollees paying a portion of the monthly premium based on their income. The average enrollee pays $36 a month, and the state pays the remaining $209. Under the strategy announced today by Health Care Authority Administrator Steve Hill, the average enrollee will pay $61.60 in 2010. The $150 annual deductible will also increase to $250 on January 1, 2010.
As many as 40,000 Basic Health members could have lost coverage under various scenarios considered by Hill and his staff in the aftermath of a 43% budget cut. The options included providing coverage to only the lowest income members, cutting off members based on their time with the program, or a lottery.
In the end, Hill said the decision came down to how to protect the most vulnerable, while maintaining the viability of the program. “We are fully aware that this decision will impact many people in the program. Even a $17 a month increase can be tough for a family struggling to get by. But this option gives those families a choice. No one qualified for the program will be arbitrarily removed.”
The decision, Hill said, was reached by following a set of guiding principles he worked out with Governor Chris Gregoire:
- Protect the most vulnerable members of the Basic Health population
- Disenroll those who have other coverage or can afford to find other coverage
- Maintain the viability of the program and preserve the original intent of the program to provide necessary health services to those lacking coverage
- Make policy decisions that are thoughtful and impartial
- Make sure decisions are legal
Gregoire said she supported the decision. “I know this was a difficult decision for Steve and his staff,” she said. “They found a way to minimize the number of people losing health care, but we still have a long way to go. There are more than 30,000 Washington residents waiting to get into Basic Health.
In addition to the rate increase, Hill said the program has identified over 5,000 people enrolled in both Basic Health and Medicaid. Those people will be removed from Basic Health and only receive Medicaid coverage. Another 3,000 Basic Health enrollees may qualify for Medicaid. Those who do qualify will also go into Medicaid.
Hill said the program will also step up its recertification of enrollees, an auditing process to determine if Basic Health members still qualify for the level of subsidy they receive. With a more stringent assets test and normal attrition, Hill thinks the program will be able to meet its budget challenge without forcing off any people who are qualified to remain with Basic Health.