The OIC has approved 2021 rates for all small group carriers in Washington State. Here's how it's all shaking out.
Over the weekend, the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) released approved 2021 rates for all small group carriers. Just like in the individual market, we were expecting a fairly anticlimactic rate approval process since most carriers had requested minor changes to their 2020 rates.
Overall Rate Changes
The final approved rates, for the most part, did not vary wildly from the carriers’ requests. The exceptions are Kaiser’s Options program (requested a 0.45% increase; approved at a 3.28% increase) and Aetna (requested a 12.6% increase; approved at a 3.33% increase).
In the end, only one carrier, Premera Blue Cross, will be providing an overall average reduction in rates from their 2020 levels, although it is minimal at a 0.64% average decrease. All other carriers’ final approved rates are below 6%.
See our 2021 Small Group Rate Tracking spreadsheet for more in-depth information about each carriers’ requested increase and final approval.
Changes to County Coverage
Only one carrier, Health Alliance NW, is expanding their reach this year. In 2020, they served Chelan and Douglas counties, and they will add Grant and Okanogan counties for 2021. All other carriers are staying their course, offering plans in the same counties next year as they have this year.
Comparing 2021 to Past Years
2021 small group renewal increases are between a 1% decrease and a 6% increase. The 2020 rate actions had a much wider span, between increases of 3.5% and 12.5%. For reference, back in 2019, the range was between a 7.5% decrease and 5.5% increase.
Of note in the filings are the annual cumulative carrier gains/losses in the individual market overall. The carriers evaluate the prior calendar year’s data when setting their rates. For example, the 2021 rate filings were based on the 2019 calendar year.
Of course, some carriers have fared better than others over these years. For example, when adding all years’ gains/losses together over this time period, there are some interesting things to note:
There are some definite “winners” in the Small Group marketplace in our State. Asuris NW, Premera, Regence, and United Healthcare have all remained on the positive side of the equation every year, from 2016 through 2019.
The Bottom Line
We are seeing a more stable marketplace going into 2021 for employers in the 1-50 employee Community Rated pool. Granted, these are the average increases of each carrier’s portfolio, and some plans will receive higher increases while others will see a smaller change. Plan design alterations will also need to be taken into account, as we know those are used to sharpen the rating pencil and to keep a plan within the same ACA metallic level from year to year. Finally, employers will need to be reminded that all enrolled members will age into the next higher rating tier for the new year, attributing to part of an overall increase to their specific renewal rating.
Be Benefits Informed
At The Benefits Academy, our mission is to bring you tools and resources to help you be a more effective benefits professional. We have a number of free offerings to keep you up to date:
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area =
Gap/Space Between Posts = 10px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors =
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
I love numbers. I'm a math geek. I read benefits industry articles and periodicals for relaxation (but, honestly, I'm still a fun gal). I also like to share what I've learned and you'll find it all here.