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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

November 15, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Insurance commissioner’s day on the hotseat

Late Friday, interview requests were still pouring in for State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who turned down President Obama’s rule change to allow insurers to keep discontinued individual health insurance plans.

The old plans were discontinued by insurers because they didn’t include a variety of benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, or in other ways didn’t meet the standards of the federal law.

Calls came in all day, and there were plenty of questions on the “Ask Mike” feature on the commissioner’s website. Many were from people unhappy with Kreidler’s stand, but nobody threw rocks or picketed the office, said his spokeswoman, Stephanie Marquis, who was half-expecting something unpleasant.  “We’re so polarized as a nation. It’s a little bit unnerving.”

What made people mad were those notices from insurers that their plans had been scrapped, she said. Some of the letters simply told people their plans would be replaced with a more expensive one, but didn’t let them know that taking that plan wasn’t their only choice, and that they might find a less expensive option on the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange site.

“I wish we could have required the companies to send a particular letter,” Marquis said. But Kreidler’s office doesn’t have the authority to do that, she noted.

Most people who had been in the individual market for some time might well believe that the replacement offered was their only choice. “In the past, you had to take that,” she said. “But now you don’t.”

After Kreidler made his announcement Thursday morning, news organizations lined up for interviews, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, local TV, radio and newspaper outlets, and, late on Friday, Al Jazeera America, she said.

Kreidler’s two cents, Marquis said, went roughly like this: “He understands the president was put in a very hard place. And of the bills before Congress, the proposal Obama made was the least egregious. But even that couldn’t be done without tremendous upheaval in (Washington’s) market. And even if they say ‘you can keep your plan,’ that doesn’t mean your rates don’t go up — just like they have every other year.”

The one call Kreidler didn’t get? President Obama.

“I was hoping the president would call and thank him,” Marquis said. “Why not? He’s standing up for the law!”

Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, discontinued plans, health insurance

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