Former Rep. Mike Kreidler (D-Wash.), the Washington state insurance commissioner, testified on Wednesday that the administration’s proposal to allow people to keep their existing coverage won’t work.
Kreidler, a healthcare law supporter, has declined President Obama’s offer to allow states to continue offering plans that don't meet ObamaCare's mandated requirements for an additional year.
He argued that allowing the discontinued plans back into the marketplace at this late date would create “uncertainty and disruption” for his state’s exchange, could lead to a premium spike in 2015, and would contribute to prolonging a “failing system” whereby insurers can gouge consumers with bare-bones plans and high out-of-pocket costs.
“Although I was one of the first to make this decision, I am not alone,” Kreidler said, according to his submitted testimony. “About 20 other states have decided against the renewal of discontinued policies.”
“The reasoning is the same – implementing consumer protections in some plans but not others would deny consumers the benefits of the Affordable Care Act while destabilizing the insurance market, increasing the risk of high premiums for those plans that do comply, and further confusing consumers,” he added.
Kreidler testified in front of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health at the request of Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), which was a risky move, as he provided fodder for ObamaCare opponents on a hot political issue.
But Kreidler was adamant that his decision pertained solely to his state, which has so far been an early success story. The former representative said Washington had 100,000 ObamaCare enrollees so far, and that another 150,000 have filled out applications.
“This option was not in the best interests for the state of Washington because our state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act is well underway,” Kreidler said. “Washington state recognized the promise of the Affordable Care Act early on and moved forward with bipartisan support.”
The administration proposed the executive action to quell the bipartisan outcry that the healthcare law doesn’t comply with the president’s promise that you can keep your plan if you like it.
The executive action has received a cool reception from some liberals, state insurers and industry groups.
Democrats worry that the proposal could undermine the law by allowing limited healthcare policies to compete with the beefier, and often more expensive plans offered through the state and federal exchanges.
State insurers and industry groups have also argued that the proposal isn’t logistically feasible and would be an administrative nightmare. The groups contend that premium prices have been set based on assumptions about what plans would be available, and that any last-minute change could cause chaos in the marketplace.