Washington’s Public Option Boasts Tripled Enrollment, Lower Premiums

Washington’s “public option” has had a substantive downward impact on premium rates on the state’s individual exchange, according to state officials — encouraging news for policymakers who have tinkered with the insurance program after it disappointed in the first two years after it launched. Experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the results bode well for other states’ public options, even though Washington is still adjusting important elements like network scope and reimbursement rates.

The Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), one of the state agencies that administers the public option — called Cascade Select — said that in a February report enrollment more than tripled for plan year 2023, increasing from 8,000 in 2022 to 27,000 people statewide. The same report also said that “Cascade Select plans are the lowest cost Silver premiums available on the Exchange in 25 counties, up from 13 counties in 2022.” HCA said Cascade Select plans’ average gross premium rates this year decreased by 3%, compared to average rate increases of 8% for other exchange plans. According to a December 2022 HCA report, Cascade Select plans are available in 34 of 39 counties, up from 19 in 2021.

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Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter has worked as a journalist since 2011 and has covered health care since 2020. At AIS Health, Peter covers trends in finance, business and policy that affect the health insurance and pharma sectors. For Health Plan Weekly, he covers all aspects of the U.S. health insurance sector, including employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces. In Radar on Drug Benefits, Peter covers the operations of (and conflicts between) pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a particular focus on pricing dynamics and market access. Before joining AIS Health, Peter covered transportation, public safety and local government for various outlets in Seattle, his hometown and current place of residence. He graduated with a B.A. from Colby College.

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