States warn Obama about health fix

President Obama met with state insurance commissioners at the White House on Wednesday in an attempt to quell concerns over his plan to allow insurers to continue offering policies that do not meet ObamaCare's requirements.

The insurance commissioners, tasked with setting minimum insurance standards within each state, have complained about the president's executive order, arguing it injected chaos into their insurance markets.


National Association of Insurance Commissioners President Jim Donelon said that in the meeting, Obama "acknowledged the complexity of the issues that we're dealing with and the change he suggested last week with the issuance of his executive order."

The commissioners, meanwhile, warned Obama that different rules for different policies could result in higher premiums for consumers.

But Donelon seemed more encouraged after the 50-minute meeting in the Oval Office than last week, when he warned that the president's action "threatens the solvency of the system" and "threatens to spike the cost to policyholders across the board."

He said that the meeting, which also included Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was "very productive" and that during a "robust" discussion, Obama acknowledged that there was a "unique statutory situation" in each state.

Donelon said the commissioners also "emphasized that we share his concern for the million of policyholders."

The more congenial tone might be because it appeared that President Obama did not vigorously lobby the commissioners to alter their state regulations.

"It wasn't the president trying to persuade us or trying to stiff arm us or anything like that," said Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi.

Leonardi added that Obama "understands that regulation is state-based; it's up to the state commissioners."

The president's proposal would allow insurance companies to continue offering existing plans to current customers and was offered after mounting criticism over the president's promise that individuals could keep their health plans if they liked them.

But in many states, commissioners have already set minimum guidelines and premiums for this year, assuming that all new plans would comply with the Affordable Care Act. They argue changing those regulations at the last minute would be messy for states and confusing for consumers.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the White House stressed that "states have different populations with unique needs, and it is up to the insurance commissioner and health insurance companies to decide which insurance products can be offered to existing customers next year."

But the concern for the White House is that, if they are unable to convince many states to change their regulations, anger over cancellation notices could persist, further bruising public perception of the law.

The White House said Obama stressed to commissioners that they needed to "make sure consumers across the country understand their options and rights under the Affordable Care Act."