The Office of the Insurer Commissioner (OIC) announced on Monday that Premera Blue Cross has decided to continue offering individual health plans in Grays Harbor County in 2018. The plans will be offered through the Health Benefit Exchange, where consumers who qualify can get federal subsidies.

“While Republicans in DC work on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which is causing turmoil in the market, in this Washington, we are ensuring that working families have access to affordable health care,” said Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen). “Today’s news is particularly good for people in Grays Harbor rural communities, where many of the folks who purchase these plans may be eligible for subsidies to help pay their premiums.”

On June 7, insurers filed their proposed 2018 plans with the OIC and none were on the table for Grays Harbor and Klickitat Counties. Under current state law, if no health insurer is available in a particular county, the only coverage option is through Washington state’s high-risk pool, WSHIP. However, because WSHIP is not a qualified exchange insurer, subsidies would not be available. Concerned about consumers in these areas having no options, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler contacted insurers urging them to reconsider their plans for 2018.

This afternoon, at a House Health Care and Wellness Committee hearing, Sheela Tallman, Senior Manager, Legislative Policy at Premera Blue Cross, said that there are uncertainties facing the health insurance market at this time, but that thanks to conversations with the OIC, the company is pleased to continue serving Grays Harbor.  She explained that while plans are taking different approaches, the underlying issues they are all facing are the higher than average health care costs that impact the smaller rural communities more significantly.

Blake added that these uncertainties are likely to continue: “We’ll keep facing these issues as long as Congress continues its assault on health care, instead of focusing on fixing problems with the ACA so that we can expand access for all Washingtonians.”

Kreidler said he’s optimistic that his ongoing discussions with insurers will also prove successful for Klickitat County.