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Originally published May 4, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Page modified May 5, 2014 at 12:39 PM

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4 more insurers want to join state health exchange

More insurance carriers have made bids to offer health plans inside Washington’s online exchange for coverage in 2015. The roster of those offering plans outside the exchange also could grow.

Seattle Times health reporter

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Four additional companies want to join the competition to sell individual health-insurance plans inside the Washington Healthplanfinder online exchange, and the eight currently selling plans there all propose to return for 2015, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

While the new entries mean 12 companies may be selling plans inside the exchange, 10 propose to offer plans outside the exchange, compared with nine this year.

One of the new entrants into the market — Moda Health Plan, a Portland for-profit company — wants to sell plans both inside and outside the market. Last year, Moda’s application for plans both inside and outside the exchange was initially rejected in the insurance office’s review process, and the company did not reapply.

Moda also proposes to offer small-business policies through the Small Business Health Options Program, known as SHOP, joining Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, which has plans in Clark and Cowlitz counties.

In addition to Moda, other new entrants into the exchange marketplace are:

• Columbia United Providers, a for-profit Vancouver, Wash., company now partnering with Community Health Plan of Washington on Apple Health (Medicaid) plans in Clark County. Its principal owner is Southwest Washington Health System, which is now run by Peace Health, a Catholic nonprofit.

• Health Alliance Northwest Health Plan, a for-profit subsidiary of Health Alliance, which is expanding from its base in Illinois. The company’s corporate parent, Carle, is a large multispecialty group based in Urbana, Ill. It currently offers Medicare plans in north-central Washington.

• UnitedHealthcare of Washington, a for-profit company whose parent is based in Minnetonka, Minn. UnitedHealthcare is one of the companies administering Apple Health plans in Washington.

Details about the plans are not yet available, including how many each company hopes to offer, premium prices and the counties each will serve. The state insurance office will review the proposed plans to ensure they conform to mandates, such as including the essential health benefits required under the Affordable Care Act.

“The proposals submitted certainly indicate that consumers will have more options available to them,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement. “I expect that we’ll have even more robust markets inside and outside of the exchange for 2015. Increased competition is part of health-care reform, and that’s what we are seeing.”

Proposed rates are expected to be available to the public by May 10. To receive email when new rates are posted, sign up on the webpage:

Last year, Kreidler initially disapproved five of the nine companies that applied to sell plans inside the exchange. All but Moda appealed and were eventually approved.

The current companies in the exchange, each of which proposes to sell plans inside the exchange for coverage in 2015, are:

• BridgeSpan Health

• Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW)

• Coordinated Care Corp. (CCC)

• Molina Healthcare of Washington

• Premera Blue Cross

• LifeWise Health Plan of Washington

• Group Health Cooperative

• Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest.

Open enrollment for 2015 coverage begins Nov. 15.

Carol M. Ostrom: or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom

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