Insurance Commissioner Kreidler says he'll block Obama's plan to let consumers keep old health plans

OlympianNovember 14, 2013 

Not so fast, Mr. President. Just hours after President Obama said insurers can let consumers keep insurance plans another year under health reforms, Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said he is "staying the course" on reform and won't let that happen.

Under a barrage of criticism, Obama is backtracking on his oft-cited campaign claim that consumers could keep their policies if they liked them under Obamacare. The president's new proposal is meant to cure a problem that affects insurance many individual policy purchasers every year when insurers change plan designs and cancel old coverage.

The difference this year is that some plans changed in order to meet higher standards of coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which are meant to ensure that policies actually deliver coverage to consumers.

Kreidler, a Democrat, put out a statement that said the state has been working for too long to encourage a stable insurance market to allow such a late change. Washington's health insurance exchange opened Oct. 1 for coverage starting Jan. 1. The statement:


“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 – – 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."


One Washington Post health-care writer described Kreidler's move as the start of a backlash against Obama's proposed "fix" to the health law.


Stay tuned.







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