Some insurance commissioners already have rejected President Obama’s plan to allow Americans hold onto barebones health plans for another year, saying the move will undercut their attempts to build a balanced insurance system under the reforms.
They threw cold water on the plan mere hours after Mr. Obama announced the decision as a way to quash unrest among Democrats whose constituents are losing their existing health insurance.
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said permitting state residents to keep plans that do not meet Obamacare’s minimum-coverage requirements could upset the state’s carefully calibrated health exchange.
“I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington,” he said. “In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.”
A few blocks from the White House, D.C. Insurance Commissioner William P. White said the plan “undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s D.C. Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate.”
Both warnings come from heavily Democratic jurisdictions, a sign that local leaders are willing to disagree with Mr. Obama’s political decisions to protect the key goals of Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act included coverage standards that require insurers to cover a range of services and scrap coverage that the law’s supporters viewed as substandard, despite Mr. Obama’s repeated and unequivocal assurances that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” Allowing consumers with fewer protections to stay in the individual market could upset the balance of revamped risk pools.
Commissioners’ warnings come on top of concerns from America’s Health Insurance Plans Presidnet Karen Ignani, who said “changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.”
But some Democrats appeared relieved by the decision, as they face pressure from constituents who are losing health plans they liked despite the assurances from Mr. Obama. Sen. Ben Nelson, Florida Democrat and former state insurance commissioner, issued a statement that said Florida will “cooperate” with Mr. Obama’s administrative decision.