State insurance chief doubts Obama's health care plan
The state Insurance commissioner cast doubt Friday on a plan by President Obama to stop insurers from dumping more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians whose medical coverage did not meet the minimum requirements of the new health care law.
Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine questioned whether Obama had the legal authority to allow insurers to reinstate or extend those policies. He also said the state has limited power to force insurers to comply with a scheme that he said “heightens confusion” surrounding the law's implementation.
“I think there are very fair questions being raised about the legal authority for the president to say we're going to ignore what's in the” Affordable Care Act, Consedine told the Tribune-Review.
The president acted to quell a firestorm over the chaotic rollout of the law known as Obamacare in proposing the administrative fix for consumers whose policies were being canceled. Many accused him of reneging on a pledge that no one would lose medical coverage if they liked it.
The president's plan to resolve the issue over cancellations requires the cooperation of insurers to reinstate or extend the policies for another year if approved by their state regulators — a move the industry says could lead to higher costs for consumers.
Consedine, an appointee of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, said he talked with the CEOs of all major health insurers operating in Pennsylvania about the president's proposal. He did not indicate whether he will approve the plan nor whether Pennsylvania insurers supported it.
“By and large, these are companies that are trying to do the right thing,” he said.
But the president is putting insurers in a tough spot where they've “got to turn around and go in the exact opposite direction,” Consedine said, which could lead to higher costs “that ultimately come back on the consumer.”
Additionally, there are concerns among insurers about potential liability of selling health plans to consumers that violate federal law, the commissioner said.
While Consedine and the state's insurers are weighing their next move, congressional Republicans pushed ahead with legislation that would let insurers sell health care policies that don't meet Obamacare requirements to anyone for one year.
Thirty-nine Democrats in the House joined GOP colleagues to pass the bill, which the White House vowed to veto.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration said 106,000 people enrolled in health plans through HealthCare.gov and state-based websites in October, far below the 500,000 enrollees whom officials had hoped to attract in the first month of operation.
Highmark Inc., the state's largest health insurer, took in about 40 percent of the Pennsylvania enrollees and said they were primarily older people — underscoring concerns of insurers that few young and healthy people will sign up for coverage.
Insurance industry officials have been cool to the idea of extending substandard policies because they were primarily purchased by younger and healthier people, who are needed to offset the cost of insuring sicker people.
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” Karen Ignagni, CEO of industry group America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement.
“If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace, and there will be fewer choices for consumers.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or email@example.com.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.