It took about three hours exactly for states to start pushing back against President Obama's request that regulators allow insurance plans to offer current products in 2014.
Washington state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler has announced that he will not allow insurance companies to do so.
"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," he said in a statement moments ago. "We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington."
I covered the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for about two years really closely. I went to their conferences, which happen three times a year, where regulators spend hours on end meeting in hotel conferences. When one was in Orlando, I bought Mickey Mouse ears with the name of the publication we worked for embodied on them for myself and my co-worker, because why not.
One thing you quickly learn covering the NAIC is that it has a wing of really progressive, liberal insurance commissioners, about five or six regulators who regularly work together. Kreidler is without a doubt part of that camp and one of the most liberal insurance regulators in the country.
It does feel a bit weird to have one of the most liberal regulators be the first out of the gate to oppose Obama. At the same time, it also makes sense: What Kreidler is doing is a full-throated defense of the Affordable Care Act.
The whole reason insurance policies are getting cancelled right now is because the Affordable Care Act wanted these plans – which have less robust benefit packages – to go out of business.
That's why Washington is among a handful of largely Democrat-led states that specifically bar insurers from offering "early renewals": Plans that start in December 2013 and dodge health law requirements. This includes some really big states, too, like California and New York.
"I encourage anyone who is shopping for new health plans – whether you’ve been uninsured or have received a cancellation notice from your insurer – to look at all of your options," Kreidler continues. "Don’t just take what your insurance company says."
The full statement from Kreidler is below.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – “We have worked for three years to implement the Affordable Care Act in a way that works best for Washingtonians. One goal of our efforts has been to build a stable, fair and competitive individual health insurance market.
I know that many people who buy their own health insurance have struggled to keep their coverage. That is why we have worked so hard to make these significant changes. We have brought meaningful benefits to this market that the rest of us with employer-sponsored health plans have enjoyed for years; benefits like prescription drug coverage, maternity care, and reasonable limits on out-of-pocket costs. Our state-based Exchange – Wahealthplanfinder.org – is up and running and successfully enrolling thousands of consumers.
I understand that many people are upset by the notices they have recently received from their health plans and they may not need the new benefits today. But I have serious concerns about how President Obama’s proposal would be implemented and more significantly, its potential impact on the overall stability of our health insurance market.
I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington. 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. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington.
We estimate that 290,000 people will need to buy new coverage and that at least half of them will qualify for a premium subsidy. I encourage anyone who is shopping for new health plans – whether you’ve been uninsured or have received a cancellation notice from your insurer – to look at all of your options. Don’t just take what your insurance company says. You may find better, more affordable coverage with a different insurer. There are 46 individual health plans for sale in the Exchange and 51 plans available outside the Exchange. If you need help reviewing your options, contact a navigator or an agent or broker.