Kreidler: Obama's health extension won't apply to Washington

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 7:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 14 at 7:58 PM

After President Obama announced Thursday that consumers whose health insurance plans have been canceled under the Affordable Care Act now have one year to keep their plan, Washington's insurance commissioner said Obama's extension would not be allowed in Washington state.

"I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington," Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a released statement. "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. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington.

After a series of problems has plagued the federal health insurance enrollment website Healthcare.gov, Obama acknowledged that "we fumbled the rollout of this health care law" and pledged to "just keep on chipping away at this until the job is done."

Responding to public outcry and intense political pressure, he announced he would give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled because they fall short of coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The change would be effective for one year, although a further extension is possible. Administration officials said insurance companies will be allowed, but not required, to offer Americans the option of renewing their old individual or small group plans.

But Kreidler said Washington state, which comparatively has had more success with its own health benefit exchange site, WaHealthplanfinder.org, has been working very hard the past three years to make the significant changes work and following Obama's new direction would not be in the best interest for Washington residents.

"I understand that many people are upset by the notices they have recently received from their health plans and they may not need the new benefits today," said Kreidler. "But 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."

Enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act missed the Obama administration's target in a big way. More than 106,000 signed up last month; out of that number, just over 26,000 of them signed up on the federal website. Originally, the White House hoped around 800,000 people would sign up in October.

Meanwhile, Washington state's health insurance website reports 77,000 people are enrolled in health insurance coverage. Most of the new enrollees are for Medicaid, while about 9,000 are enrolled in other insurance offered on the website.

Kreidler said they estimate about 290,000 people will need to buy new health coverage and at least half of those people will qualify for a subsidy. He encouraged Washington consumers to look at all the options offered on Washington's health exchange, which includes 46 individual health plans in the exchange and 51 plans available outside the exchange.

Kreidler full statement on President Obama's announcement:
 

OLYMPIA, Wash. - "We have worked for three years to implement the Affordable Care Act in a way that works best for Washingtonians. One goal of our efforts has been to build a stable, fair and competitive individual health insurance market.
 
I know that many people who buy their own health insurance have struggled to keep their coverage. That is why we have worked so hard to make these significant changes. We have brought meaningful benefits to this market that the rest of us with employer-sponsored health plans have enjoyed for years; benefits like prescription drug coverage, maternity care, and reasonable limits on out-of-pocket costs. Our state-based Exchange - Wahealthplanfinder.org - is up and running and successfully enrolling thousands of consumers.
 
I understand that many people are upset by the notices they have recently received from their health plans and they may not need the new benefits today. But 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.
 
I do not believe his 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. I believe this is in the best interest of the health insurance market in Washington.
 
We estimate that 290,000 people will need to buy new coverage and that at least half of them will qualify for a premium subsidy. I encourage anyone who is shopping for new health plans - whether you've been uninsured or have received a cancellation notice from your insurer - to look at all of your options. Don't just take what your insurance company says. You may find better, more affordable coverage with a different insurer. There are 46 individual health plans for sale in the Exchange and 51 plans available outside the Exchange. If you need help reviewing your options, contact a navigator or an agent or broker.
 

KING 5's Liza Javier contributed to this report.

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