The Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) has announced support for the Governor’s requested legislation on the Washington State Health Benefits Exchange (SB 6178/HB 2319), authorized by the Affordable Care Act. WSMA testimony before the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee and the House Health Care and Wellness Committee made the following points:
· The WSMA supports an Exchange that promotes the purchase of health insurance, ensures administrative simplification, ensures patients have access to local providers, provides coverage for key benefits and promotes the viability of physicians and their medical practices.
· Qualified Health Plans - Any decisions to expand Qualified Health Plan standards should be analyzed carefully with mindfulness towards barriers that can limit access to affordable health coverage.
· Market Rules - The exchange must be stable and sustainable. Market rules imposed should keep an eye on affordability for patients and the viability of medical practices.
· Powers of the Exchange Board and the Office of Insurance Commissioner (OIC) - In regulating the Exchange, the Board must be responsive to the interests and needs of Washington’s physicians and consumers. Policies that drive payment rates down to Medicaid levels will jeopardize access to care.
· Washington High Risk Insurance Pool - WSMA supports operation of the WSHIP for patients who are most vulnerable. Consideration should be given towards keeping it open past January 1, 2014.
In my view, this common sense input is important advice to heed that will make our Washington State Health Benefits Exchange strong, sustainable and useful.