The other time Washington state had Obamacare | KUOW News and Information

The other time Washington state had Obamacare

Jun 1, 2017

Remember that time back in the 1990s when Washington state had Obamacare?

Okay, it wasn't exactly the same, but the health insurance law the Legislature passed in 1993 had a similar goal: Get more people covered by health insurance.

And some of the mechanisms were the same. People were required to have insurance. Insurance companies couldn't turn you away because of a pre-existing condition. There were subsidies for premiums.

That experiment ran into trouble when Republicans surged to power in the Legislature in 1994 and cut some key components. The private individual insurance market collapsed in this state.

Aaron Katz, a lecturer at the University of Washington who does research on health insurance markets, said there are some similarities today as Republicans in Congress try to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Katz says uncertainty surrounding that legislation is complicating things for insurance companies trying to work out plans they'll offer under Obamacare in Washington state in 2018. The state extended the deadline for those plans to June 7, but the U.S. Senate seems to be weeks or months away from acting on the federal legislation.

The uncertainty could drive up premiums for next year, and some companies could pull out of some counties, particularly in eastern Washington.

And that's without cuts in Medicaid proposed under the House Republican plan. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has said  up to 600,000 people could lose their Medicaid insurance coverage.

"The warts of the ACA are theoretically solvable," Katz said. "Congress could solve those problems if it had the will."