If you don’t like your insurance commissioner, you can not keep your insurance commissioner

Written by . Posted in 2014 Campaigns, Yep, This Happened

Published on November 18, 2013

CaptureSo, turns out if you don’t like your insurance commissioner, you can fire your insurance commissioner:

A day after he questioned President Obama’s decision to unwind a major tenet of the health-care law and said the nation’s capital might not go along, D.C. insurance commissioner William P. White was fired.

White was called into a meeting Friday afternoon with one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) top deputies and told that the mayor “wants to go in a different direction,” White told The Washington Post on Saturday.

So, what had White done? When President Obama announced his “administrative fix” for Obamacare causing millions of old policies to be cancelled, White had quickly pointed to a very skeptical statement about the fix issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and expressed agreement. He also joined a handful of other state insurance commissioners (nearly all of them liberal Democrats by the way) in openly rejecting this ad hoc approach as unworkable in the time frame given. Here was part of his statement:

“The action today undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s DC Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate,” the statement said.

After his sudden firing, White’s statement was yanked from the D.C. government website.

All politics aside, White is right. Assuming that Obama’s solution isn’t a gross violation of the law he signed, there remains the minor fact that it’s impossible or nearly impossible for many states. This is especially true in states that embraced the law most zealously (D.C., Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, New York among others), requiring full or nearly full Obamacare compliance in all policies at the end of this year or (in at least Oregon’s case) by this spring. 

There’s an additional consideration where D.C. is concerned. It’s a small jurisdiction of just over 600,000 people. Once you exclude all the people who will have no use for the exchange — government employees, people working for large white collar employers, Medicaid eligibles, etc. — it’s not easy to find enough people to put together a workable insurance pool.

When Obamacare passed, officials in the District (out of simple arrogance, really) refused to partner with a larger state like Maryland in order to form an exchange that serves a bigger population. As a result, D.C.’s exchange can’t afford to lose its current captive customer base to loopholes like this one. For example, if David Frum and his ilk can suddenly go back to paying their old premiums for their more generous, pre-Obamacare insurance policies, then the system is suddenly even more likely to fail because there just won’t be enough people in the pool to make it work.

So far, the D.C. exchange has had only 565 people enroll. If people start signing up at an even more pathetic pace, or start un-signing up, it could get ugly.