- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2013

Florida washed its hands of Obamacare long ago, opting to let the federal government run a health care exchange for the state.

But state Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty is now scrambling to work with Florida’s largest insurer to rescind cancellation notices and let residents keep their health care, even though it violates Obamacare’s strict standards.

President Obama’s announcement last week that he would let states decide whether to let companies continue to offer plans that flout his own health care law has put state officials back on the hot seat.

“It’s unfortunate that the insurance commissioners have been put in this position through no fault of their own,” Mr. McCarty said in an interview.

The White House continues to grapple with the poor rollout of the president’s signature program. On Monday, a spokesman said the administration is unlikely to meet its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to have the HealthCare.gov website fully functional and that a 80 percent success rate is now the best hope.

Among the other 20 percent, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, are those who aren’t comfortable enrolling online or who have personal circumstances that are too “complex” to use the website.

Other provisions of Obamacare that are rankling Americans include minimum-coverage requirements and whether large employers should pay for contraceptives.

But the biggest headache stems from the millions of consumers in the individual markets whose policies have been canceled in recent months. Insurance companies say these plans don’t meet Obamacare’s long list of requirements.

Mr. Obama, who during the health care debate said Americans could keep their plans if they liked them, was forced to backtrack and announce the use of executive authority to let states decide whether policies should be canceled.

The move may have cost the job of the D.C. insurance commissioner, who said a one-year reprieve for bare-bones plans on the individual market could undercut the health care overhaul.

Other commissioners are still on the payroll, trying to keep up with shifting rules while the Obama administration scrambles to smooth out the rocky implementation of the president’s signature law.

Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of law and health care policy at George Washington University, said Mr. Obama’s move to give states the final decision is “consistent with the Affordable Care Act itself,” whose authors wanted to let states set up their own markets and guidelines.

But the line between state and federal responsibilities for Mr. Obama’s overhaul has blurred over the past three years, partly because of reluctant Republican governors and a Supreme Court that said states could opt not to expand Medicaid under the law.

In Florida, Mr. McCarty said, some insurance companies voluntarily extended coverage for affected policyholders through 2014 — an early-bird strategy to head off Obamacare standards that take effect Jan. 1.

The state’s largest insurer, Florida Blue, did not make such accommodations, so Mr. McCarty promised to work with the company to renew policies.

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