O’Ban bill could return lower-cost health insurance to Washington residents

20140204_LegWA_0005abSen. Steve O’Ban today told members of the Senate Health Care Committee that his legislation represents the best hope for people who have lost their medical insurance due to Obamacare. Backed by supporters, and following a Tuesday morning news conference addressing the merits of Senate Bill 6464, the Republican from west Pierce County shared stories from many people who have been fighting to regain affordable health-care coverage for themselves and their families.

“The fact is, tens of thousands of Washington citizens have been kicked off of the medical-care plans that they liked, despite the promise that ‘if they liked their plan, they could keep it,’” O’Ban said, “and it only gets worse because the state insurance commissioner specifically prevented residents from purchasing affordable care from other states, even though the president allowed states to obtain exemption waivers. Now those plans – catastrophic and group plans primarily – don’t exist in Washington. My bill will give people back their freedom of choice.”

See photos of the news conference on Flickr.

Watch video of the news conference on YouTube.

Watch video of the committee hearing at TVW.

In addition to allowing Washington residents to buy catastrophic health-care plans in other states, SB 6464 would:

  • Require the state insurance commissioner, for a period of one year, to approve plans that do not meet the requirements of Obamacare;
  • Allow health carriers to continue offering certain individual or small-group health plans in the market outside of the health-care exchange, regardless of whether the plans meet the requirements of Obamacare;
  • Bar the insurance commissioner from prohibiting the continuation of these plans; and
  • Allow out-of-state carriers to offer insurance products in Washington.

Among those testifying before the health-care committee were Gary Franke, an independent insurance broker who spoke of clients whose costs have skyrocketed after implementation of the so-called Affordable Care Act, and compared identical plan costs between neighboring states.

“These are real numbers from a company I won’t identify,” Franke explained. “For a 60-year-old with a gold plan in Washington it would cost $769 each month. Compare that to Oregon, where the same plan would cost 15 percent less at $667 per month. Now look at the same plan in Idaho, where the 60-year-old would only spend $594 per month – a savings of 29 percent. Why do we want to deny citizens these health-care choices and prevent insurance companies from competing against each other?”

Heidi Erickson also testified in support of SB 6464, explaining how she was stuck with an expensive health-care plan that she didn’t want thanks to the implementation of Obamacare in Washington.

“Last year, I bought a catastrophic policy that cost $321 a month with a $5,000 deductible,” Erickson said. “After Obamacare, the company canceled my policy and gave me one they said was comparable, only this one cost well over $500 a month. So not only am I paying an additional $2,000 in annual premiums, but my new $5,250 deductible only covers in-network providers. If I have to see a specialist for any reason, it jumps to $10,000. I simply can’t afford that.”

O’Ban noted that perhaps the most moving testimony came from Rob Pangaro, a married father of five, who is a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant, current Parent-Teacher Association president and Red Cross volunteer. Pangaro shared the story of a teacher colleague who was forced onto the Affordable Care Act by the school.

“At a recent PTA meeting, he showed us a copy of his pay stub that showed his take-home salary of $1,100 and right below that was his new deduction for health care at $1,300,” Pangaro said. “Along with that, his deductible went up from $500 for his family on the previous plan to over $4,800. He’s now considering whether or not he can even continue teaching to support his family.”

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, has sponsored identical legislation in the House of Representatives (House Bill 2221). SB 6464 could be approved by the Senate Health Care Committee in the coming weeks.