Kreidler’s health care experience too valuable to end

As down-ballot races go, Washington state insurance commissioner iseasy to overlook. But voters should support incumbent Mike Kreidler, a Lacey-area Democrat seeking his fifth term.

The challenger is Republican Richard Schrock, a fire commissioner from Snohomish County who ran the state Department of Commerce until 1985.

Kreidler has brought a steady hand to home, auto and health insurance regulation since winning the 2000 election. He offers the same for health insurance during the next few years of uncertainty for the federal Affordable Care Act.

Schrock makes fair complaints that some insurance networks are now narrower, meaning that health plans limit in-network coverage, and he is correct that Medicaid expansion under the ACA has had the most impact in terms of cutting the state’s uninsured by more than half to about 6.6 percent of state residents.

It’s not Kreidler’s fault that insurance rates in the individual market are going up next year. The increases come after a few of years of relatively minor increases, which followed years of rapid premium inflation, and reflect national trends.

Schrock’s approach to deregulating aspects of the health insurance market look like a step backward and would not necessarily give better coverage. The individual market actually covers more people today than when Obamacare took effect in 2013.

The incumbent’s record has blemishes. Kreidler suspended a former administrative hearings judge in May 2014, calling it a personnel issue. But Senate Republicans raised questions about the agency’s possible interference with the officer’s rulings, and the employee departed with a $450,000 settlement.

Overall Kreidler, a former optometrist, congressman and legislator, is the best choice. He understands there are regulatory tradeoffs to be made between narrow healthcare networks, premium prices, co-pays and deductibles in policies. We trust him most to look for the best balance.