States Mixed on Support of Obamacare Fix

Monday, 18 Nov 2013 12:32 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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State regulators say they aren't sure if they'll back the president's plan to allow customers to keep health insurance policies that don't meet Obamacare minimum care standards.

Regulators say they need more time to determine if the fix will hinder their insurance markets.

If states don't back President Barack Obama's plan, a one-year extension of those policies won't be enough to keep millions of people from losing their coverage, reports Politico.

Not all states are making their decisions along the usual political lines, either, but are more concerned whether the plan will help residents.

In Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick typically is an Obama ally, the state's lead insurance regulator declined to comment on whether the state would back the president's plan.

“We share the president’s commitment to assuring that everyone has adequate health coverage, and are working with the industry and our residents to implement the [Affordable Care Act],” said state Insurance Commissioner Joseph Murphy. “We will assess whether the latitude the president authorized today is necessary or helpful here in Massachusetts.”

Rhode Island rejected Obama's plan.

All states manage their own insurance markets and have their own laws, and Obama's fix makes the insurance game even more complicated. In addition, regulators say, extending policies for another year may drive up premiums in new health plans that still would have to follow federal standards.

Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler rejected Obama's fix almost immediately after he announced it, saying he was acting "in the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health-insurance costs down for all consumers."

"It’s too late in the game, certainly for the state of Washington," Kreidler told The Washington Post. "How do you have one set of rules for some plans and another for others? It would have been very challenging."

Kreidler, who says he supports Obamacare, was also worried that Obama's plan fix would result in his seeing "the market destabilizing or seeing significant rate increases impacting the number of people signing up for health insurance."

But other states are backing Obama's plan.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, whose views on Obamacare are far apart, say they support pushing back the deadline. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, an outspoken critic of Obamacare, says it will work to help renew plans.

Other states have offered their own versions of Obama's plans.

In Colorado, the state gave insurers a chance to renew their policies into 2014, and Vincent Plymell, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Insurance, said the state will "work with carriers if they feel the need to make some drastic changes."

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