A top deputy in the DC mayor’s office reportedly told the city’s insurance commissioner he wants to “go in a different direction” -- i.e., fire him -- one day after the latter released a statement raising concerns about President Obama’s decision to amend his signature health care law. This is another way of saying, “if you disagree with the president publicly, there will be consequences.” Or so it seems:
A day after he questioned President Obama’s decision to unwind a major tenet of the health-care law and said the nation’s capital might not go along, D.C. insurance commissioner William P. White was fired.
White was called into a meeting Friday afternoon with one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) top deputies and told that the mayor “wants to go in a different direction,” White told The Washington Post on Saturday.
White said the mayoral deputy never said that he was being asked to leave because of his Thursday statement on health care. But he said the timing was hard to ignore. Roughly 24 hours later, White said, he was “basically being told, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”
White was one of the first insurance commissioners in the nation last week to push back against Obama’s attempt to smooth over part of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act: millions of unexpected cancellations of insurance plans.
White evidently raised the warning bells because the president’s unilateral delay will discourage young people from enrolling in the exchanges, thus hastening the law’s death spiral. Curiously, the commissioner’s public statement was removed from his department’s website almost immediately:
White’s statement was removed from the department’s Web site sometime before Friday morning. Asked about the removal Friday, spokesman Michael Flagg said the department’s statement had changed.
“Our statement now is that we’re taking a close look at the implications of the president’s announcement on the District’s exchange and we will soon recommend a course of action after taking into consideration the positions of all the stakeholders,” Flagg wrote in an e-mail.
An anonymous city official suggests White was fired not because of the content of his statement, but because he violated protocol:
A senior city official said White’s initial statement was sent to the mayoral communications director, Pedro Ribeiro, only minutes before it was issued publicly. It was not sent to Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins, White’s immediate supervisor, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about a personnel matter.
A formal statement critical of the president should have been closely vetted and approved by the mayor’s office, and White refused to acknowledge the misstep, the official said. White said Hoskins fired him Friday.
White said he thought he would have been derelict in his duties to not quickly make a statement on the president’s announcement.
“Everyone was looking for responses from the regulators. One of my chief concerns is always consistency and clarity in the marketplace — you can’t have something that big sitting out there without responding to it,” he said.
Either way, White no longer has a job. And politics seems to be the reason why.