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With WIN out of Wyoming, multi-state cooperative might be next

Oct 28, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

When WINHealth pulled out of the federal health insurance marketplace and then went out of business, Wyoming was left with only one company offering a plan through the exchange.

One solution to that problem could be for the state to form a regional insurance exchange with neighboring states, the Riverton Economic and Community Development Association heard Wednesday morning.

Small population

Wyoming's small population and high health-care costs makes it unattractive to health insurance companies, David Parker of Fremont Financial said during Wednesday morning's RECDA meeting at the Sundowner Station in Riverton.

"Because of our size, it's just hard to get insurance companies here," Parker said. "Our premiums are about as high as they get in the nation, and our incomes are not."

Joining other states in a regional exchange could make for a better situation in Wyoming, he said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states or the federal government established a health insurance exchange for each state online.

Businesses and individuals in the state could use the site to buy health-care coverage.

ACA permits it

The ACA legislation allows for different degrees of regional exchange, from allowing insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines, to full integration.

A regional exchanging involving about five states could be viable, Parker said. With WINHealth going out of business and Wyoming's legislature starting its session in February, he said now was a good time to look into the issue.

"This year is probably a good year to contact your representatives and senators," Parker said.

Since the website opened in 2012, WINHealth and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming were the only two companies that sold health insurance on Wyoming's exchange.

Blue Cross Blue Shield already had locked in rates for its plan for 2016, and Parker said it can't change its rates now despite WINHealth's exit from the marketplace.

The new open-enrollment period for 2016 begins Nov. 1.

Shutting down

WINHealth plans to shut down Dec. 31, at which time the 13,000 people it covers will have to find new insurance.

Earlier this fall WINHealth an-nounced that it received far less money than the $5 million it was expecting from the federal government in a sort of reinsurance program.

The federal "risk corridor" program was intended to reimburse insurance companies that paid out more than they were expecting and take in money from those that did the opposite.

WINHealth did receive payments as expected for two years, Parker said, but this year the money fell short.

RECDA members offered their perspectives on the company's fall.

"WINHealth went out and aggressively marketed," said accountant Alan Moore of Clifford H. Moore and Company. "They were enrolling everybody on the theory ... they'd get a big risk-sharing payment."

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