Governor restores senior discount - The law allows private companies to offer reduced rates on insurance premiums.

By Jerry Cornfield
The Daily Herald writer


OLYMPIA, WA-- Charlotte and Bill Faust fought for months for a $100 discount on their health insurance premiums.

On Monday they won.

So did thousands of state seniors after Gov. Gary Locke signed a law allowing private companies to continue to offer seniors price breaks on health insurance plans sold to supplement Medicare coverage.

"It was an urgent situation for seniors. This prevents the loss of those discounts and will help seniors throughout the state," said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, who wrote the legislation after learning of the issue from the Fausts.

The Fausts could not be reached for comment Monday.

The problem began last year when the Office of the Insurance Commissioner ordered an end to discounts, citing a state law requiring premiums for supplemental insurance be equal for all policy holders. Discounts created inequities, the office said.

That meant insurance companies, starting this year, would no longer be able to shave a few dollars off the price of premiums if their customers took advantage of discounts. These include paying electronically and paying a year's tab up-front rather than making installments.

The bill amends state law to specifically allow the discounts.

The Fausts would pay $100 a year more had they lost their discount. Kristiansen said other seniors, some living on fixed incomes, told him they could have been forced to pay $300 more a year on premiums.

"I was made aware of the situation the first week of the session," Kristiansen recalled. "I'm thrilled that we got something through. By having an emergency clause attached it means it takes effect immediately and seniors will not lose their discounts for this year."

The Fausts and representatives of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner testified for the bill. The AARP endorsed it and its members phoned dozens of lawmakers to lobby them for support.

No one spoke against it and no legislator opposed the final version of the bill.

"Seniors saw this as something that was very important," Kristiansen said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or



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