The PJ Tatler

D.C. Insurance Commission Fired for Questioning Obamacare 'Fix'

A majority of state insurance commissioners across the country have made it clear that applying President Obama’s “fix” to Obamacare isn’t possible and would only make matters worse.

But the very first insurance commissioner who made that argument has been fired.

From the Washington Post:

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.

White said the mayoral deputy never said that he was being asked to leave because of his Thursday statement on health care. But he said the timing was hard to ignore. Roughly 24 hours later, White said, he was “basically being told, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ ”

White was one of the first insurance commissioners in the nation last week to push back against Obama’s attempt to smooth over part of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act: millions of unexpected cancellations of insurance plans.

In persuading Congress to vote for the health-care overhaul, Obama had promised that Americans who liked their insurance plans would be able to keep them. When that turned out to not be the case, Obama apologized last week. And to stem growing bipartisan dissent, he announced Thursday that plans slated to be canceled next year to comply with the legislation could be extended for one year.

While the president’s plan sounded like a simple fix, it rattled the insurance industry, which had set prices for next year based on many of its products changing to comply with the health-care law. Allowing some plans to continue beyond Jan. 1 could also run afoul of provisions in laws passed by dozens of states and the District to implement the Affordable Care Act.

In a statement issued Thursday, White hinted strongly that he opposed the idea.

“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.

He also pointed to a statement issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that said the Obama order “threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.”

“We concur with that assessment,” White said Thursday.

It’s tempting to draw a line from the White House to the D.C. mayor’s office and speculate on why Mr. White was good enough to perform his duties on Thursday but not on Friday after making a statement questioning the Obamacare fix offered by the president. It seems rather sudden, doesn’t it?

White would not be the first bureaucrat fired for telling the truth. But why Mayor Gray would see the insurance commissioner doing his job and warning about the problems that would crop up if a particular policy were adopted as a “betrayal” says a lot about D.C. politics. A governmental entity entirely dependent on the good graces of Congress — especially Democrats in Congress — to butter its bread might see White’s statement as a threat. Not rocking the boat takes precedent over good governance in Washington, which is why the city is one of the worst run metropolises in the country.

White may yet have the last laugh. Since the Obamacare fix is unworkable, it probably won’t be adopted in most states anyway. Whoever his successor, the prospects of complying with the president’s burdensome executive action are no better than when White spoke his “truth to power” and got fired for his trouble.