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States Respond To President's Announcement On Insurance Policies

OPB | Nov. 14, 2013 4:21 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 3, 2014 2:17 p.m. | Portland

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State insurance commissioners around the nation are reacting to President Obama’s announcement Thursday that insurance companies will be allowed to keep selling their old plans for another year.

Oregon is thinking about the idea while Washington State is blocking it.

Announcing his plans, Obama was clear that states are in control.

“State insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what kinds of plans can and cannot be sold in their states, but the bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled,” Obama said.

Washington’s insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler said he won’t allow insurance companies to extend policies that don’t meet requirements of federal health care reform.

An estimated 290,000 Washington residents have received notices that their old policies will be canceled.

Kreidler says they can get better coverage via the new exchange and they may qualify for a tax subsidy.

“What the president proposed may be needed in some other states. But for the state of Washington, it would have been very disruptive,” he said.

On OPB’s Think Out Loud, the spokeswoman for Cover Oregon Amy Fauver was asked whether Obama’s announcement was going to change anything for them.

“It’s really too soon to say and quite honestly it’s not Cover Oregon’s decision. That would be up to the state’s insurance commissioner. I’m sure they’re starting to look at that now and we’ll be monitoring that situation as well.”

Oregon’s insurance commissioner Laura Cali had previously said she would allow companies to keep offering policies until the end of March. But she hasn’t reacted yet to Obama’s announcement.

Democratic congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici issued a statement Thursday calling on Cali to immediately allow insurance companies to extend existing health insurance plans into 2014.

According to the insurance commissioner’s office 145,000 Oregonians have individual policies that are about to expire.

During his hour-long news conference, President Obama said the fix won’t solve every problem and that he won’t accept legislation that would “drag us back to a broken system.”

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