Insurance commissioner criticizes California’s rejection of Obama’s ‘you-can-keep-it’ fix

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California’s insurance commissioner said Thursday that his state’s health exchange board rebuked President Obama and punished about one million residents by deciding to ban its insurers from renewing barebones plans for one year.

Commissioner Dave Jones said Covered California’s decision was unwarranted, because policyholders were promised they could keep their plans.


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“They’re losing their doctors and their hospitals,” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones is among state commissioners who wanted to comply with Mr. Obama’s decision last week that Americans should be able to renew, for one year, health plans that do not comply with his own reforms’ standards. It was an attempt to tamp down discord over his flawed promise that everyone would be able to retain their existing coverage under his signature law.

Mr. Jones said the Affordable Care Act has enough risk-adjustment safeguards to allow these customers to renew their plans without creating imbalances in the individual market forged by the health care law.

But Covered California’s board saw it differently, deciding on Thursday that “extending the deadline offers no benefit to the consumer and may create confusion about accessing affordable health care coverage through Covered California.”

“The decision to maintain the original deadline also confirms the state exchange’s commitment to transitioning Californians into plans that are compliant with the reforms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, protecting consumers from double deductibles and stabilizing the risk pool to control costs for consumers beginning in 2014,” the board said in a news release.

Mr. Obama’s “fix,” as many have called it, is sowing discord among the nation’s insurance commissioners. Some state regulators rejected it after working for three years to implement Obamacare, while others say residents should be able to keep the plans they like.

Mr. Jones said that at least one California insurer is beyond the grip of Covered California’s contractual stipulations.

“We understand that Cigna has been offering renewals to its existing policy holders,” he said.

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