Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says the controversial Reproductive Parity Act pending in the Legislature is not essential to have in the next two years, because the state’s health insurers that cover maternity services are locked in to also covering abortion. But Kreidler said the Legislature should write that coverage into state law this year in anticipation that things could change under Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, in the out years.
Kreidler, a Democrat starting his fourth term as commissioner, made his remarks Wednesday in response to questions raised at The Olympian’s editorial before.
“Historically if you bought a health policy in Washington it covered abortion,’’ Kreidler said. In sharp contract, Kreidler spokeswoman Sandi Peck said 17 states have passed legislation to prohibit coverage of abortion in policies sold through insurance exchanges being set up under reform.
Kreidler joined the newspaper board to talk more broadly about the landmark federal reform, which he said will bring about 800,000 Washington residents into health coverage – a large share of the nearly 1.1 million estimated to lack it. Those gaining coverage will get it either by enrolling in Medicaid or by buying private insurance plans that are subsidized by the government.
Kreidler’s 2012 report on what was at stake with reform spells out county-by-county figures showing the number of uninsured people and how many may get coverage now. In Thurston County, for example, Kreidler expects there to be 31,200 uninsured people younger than 65, and of those 24,500 would go on Medicaid or get subsidies. In Pierce County, 94,400 of the estimated 121,200 uninsured could expect to gain help with coverage.
Statewide Kreidler predicted 328,000 would qualify for Medicaid and 477,400 would get subsidies.
Some people may pay more under reform, while others pay less. But Kreidler said most people the shopping for insurance plans on the state’s health-insurance exchange will find it is a non-event. The exchange is expected to begin marketing plan options to people who are not covered at work in October and plans would start actually covering people next Jan. 1.
State lawmakers have not yet pledged to fully expand Medicaid but Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing for it, just like his predecessor, and the state would benefit financially by more than $100 million in the first two years.
Critics, who include Republican budget writers in the Senate and House, have not signed on. They say they fear federal funds may not be available to cover 90 percent-or-more of the new Medicaid enrollees’ costs once Congress gets more serious about cutting spending.
So passage of legislation to fully expand Medicaid to all people whose incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line is still in doubt a bit. So although Inslee and others expect the expansion to eventually happen, Medicaid is one of those issues not likely to settle out for another month or two as lawmakers move through their 105 day session and await the March 20 revenue forecast, which traditionally marks the starting gun for budget rollouts.