Whoops: California Says "No Way" to Obama's Plan Extensions

Posted: Nov 22, 2013 1:07 PM
Whoops: California Says "No Way" to Obama's Plan Extensions

For the nearly one million Californians being kicked off their health insurance there will be no “fix.” The state health insurance exchange board unanimously voted Thursday to decline President Obama’s request to extend health policies past the original Dec. 31 deadline.

Complying with the one-year extension would merely prolong the inevitable, as, "a short-term fix isn’t what is needed for this issue,“ Covered California’s executive director Peter Lee said.

The president’s plan could make matters worse, board member Susan Kennedy explained:

“There’s no way to make the federal law work without this transition to ACA-compliant plans. Delaying the transition isn’t going to help anyone; it just delays the problems. I actually think that it’s going to make a bad situation worse if we complicate it further.”

The board did opt to extend the deadline to purchase insurance policies from Dec. 15 to Dec. 26. It also bummed the payment deadline from Jan. 1 to Jan. 5.

While Obama’s healthcare bill caused these cancellations in the first place, the blame seems to have shifted away from the president. As captured by the SFGate:

"It's outrageous that this board would acknowledge that half of canceled policyholders will have rate hikes, then block them from continuing their coverage for another year," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, which is based in Santa Monica.

The action shows that the agency is more on the side of insurers, "not the policyholders, by standing in the way of President Obama's call for action," Court said in a statement. "Shame on them."

Seven additional states have rejected Obama's request as of Nov. 19. AIS Health compiled these statements (emphasis added):

Georgia. Commissioner Ralph Hudgens (R) said, “While I encourage insurers to offer consumers as many options as permitted, I lack the statutory authority to force insurers to provide the stop-gap measure that the President created yesterday. Insurance companies have spent years preparing for Obama’s law, now the President has given them six weeks to temporarily undo its damage.”

Massachusetts.To change course at this time, and delay certain market reforms, could cause confusion and significant market disruption,” Insurance Commissioner Joseph Murphy said Nov. 18.

Minnesota. “Making the program changes offered by the president last week would be unworkable for your members and would likely cause more expensive health coverage for Minnesotans,” Gov. Mark Dayton (D) wrote to the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, the Duluth News-Tribune reported Nov. 19.

Rhode Island. “All plans available in 2014, whether through HealthSource RI or in the private market, have been through a rigorous review process designed to ensure that they meet the standards set forth in the Affordable Care Act,” said a Nov. 15 joint statement from Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Hittner, M.D., and HealthSource RI Director Christine Ferguson. “We have decided to continue in the direction we are going, and therefore will not be adopting the option made available to us by the President.”

Texas. According to multiple news reports, Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber said, “Because Texas is not enforcing the Affordable Care Act, it remains to be seen how President Obama's executive order will impact the marketplace and consumers. Whether a company offers or withdraws a policy is a business decision for that company. We will be closely monitoring the impact of these latest developments on consumers and the industry.”

Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said, "This is a state by state decision and the state of Vermont has made the decision to continue with its expanded options plan which allows current individual purchasers (direct pay, Safety Net, Catamount and sole proprietors) to extend their existing policies through March 31, 2014….The state of Vermont is confident that the State’s current options plan will meet the coverage needs of Vermonters in 2014.”

Washington state. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler (D) said, “I do not believe his [Obama’s] proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington. In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.”