Sorry, Washingtonians: You Won’t All Be Able To Keep Old Health Plan

Nov 15, 2013

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
Credit insurance.wa.gov/

Within hours of President Barack Obama’s announcement that people could keep their old insurance plans – at least for another year – Washington state’s insurance commissioner said he wouldn’t abide.

“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,” Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement.

About 290,000 people in Washington state received letters saying their insurance plans would not be continued, typically because those plans did not meet federal standards. The plans may not include maternity care, prescription drug cover and limits on out-of-pocket costs, which are required under the Affordable Care Act.

“I encourage anyone who is shopping for new health plans – whether you’ve been uninsured or have received a cancelation notice from your insurer – to look at all of your options,” Kreidler said. “Don’t just take what your insurance company says. You may find better, more affordable coverage with a different insurer.”

In his remarks on Thursday, Obama alluded to this as well, suggesting that often those who are happy with those minimal plans haven’t been sick and put those plans to test. 

But Obama agreed to extend them anyway – largely in response to public outcry that he had reneged on a repeated campaign promise that anyone who wanted could keep their old plan.

So why did Kreidler so adamantly disagree with the president's position?

Writing for the Washington Post, Sarah Kliff, who reported on insurance commissioner meetings for two years, wrote that she quickly learned that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a “wing of really progressive, liberal insurance commissioners, about five or six regulators who regularly work together.”  

Kreidler, she said, is 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 canceled right now is because the Affordable Care Act wanted these plans – which have less robust benefit packages – to go out of business.

By the Numbers: Washington Health Finder
In Washington state, the health exchange site has also had technical issues, but consumers have, for the most part, been able to sign up for coverage. To date more than 77,000 residents have enrolled.

Of the half million who visited Washington’s Healthplanfinder.org in October, about a third enrolled or completed an application, according to a state report released on Friday.

The highest enrollments are those younger than 18. Also enrolling in high numbers are those between the ages of 26 and 34, according to the state report.

Fifty-seven percent of those who enrolled have been women.

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.