Recently I’ve heard from some of my constituents who were upset to learn they’ll be losing their health insurance coverage on Aug. 1. I looked into the matter and this is what I learned.
LifeWise Health Plan of Washington has been the only health insurer in our state to offer a policy that included catastrophic coverage and a generic-only pharmacy benefit. The plan was popular and affordable and those who contacted me said it was the only insurance they could afford that included a prescription-drug benefit. It worked for them!
When another insurer wanted to offer a plan similar to LifeWise, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler responded by issuing an emergency ruling prohibiting insurance carriers from offering health insurance coverage that limits prescription drugs to generic medicines. The result is that the 45,000 Washington residents enrolled in LifeWise will no longer have access to the plan they chose and all insurers will be barred from offering these plans in the future — 45,000 people, that’s a lot!
At a time when many people are out of work, health care costs are rising and there is uncertainty about what will happen with the federal health care reform bill, the last thing anyone in state government should do is limit access to health care and consumer choice. It makes no sense.
In 2007, I served on Gov. Gregoire’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access. This bipartisan group was composed of elected officials and agency heads from all areas of state government. One of its recommendations was to give individuals and families more choice in selecting private insurance plans that work for them. Another recommendation was to address affordability of coverage. Unfortunately, this emergency rule seems to run directly contrary to both of those goals.
Now those who had enrolled in the LifeWise plan have three choices: Find money for a higher-cost plan, find a plan that doesn’t include a drug benefit, or drop coverage. I can assure you that this was not what the Blue Ribbon Commission members had in mind when we recommended giving individuals more choices regarding their insurance coverage.
With all due respect Commissioner Kreidler, please revisit your decision and find a way to allow Washingtonians the choice of insurance coverage they want and deserve.
Linda Evans Parlette is a pharmacist and orchardist and represents Washington’s 12th District in the state Senate. She serves as the Republican caucus chair and is a member of the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee.