If Sen. John McKinney is right, then President Barack Obama’s pronouncement Thursday that people can keep their canceled health insurance plans doesn’t apply in Connecticut.
McKinney pointed Friday to a law passed in 2011 that says the state must comply with the Affordable Care Act and all of its regulations. A plain language reading of the law does not give the insurance commissioner discretion to make any changes to that requirement, which means those plans would still remain illegal in Connecticut, McKinney said.
When he made the announcement Thursday, Obama left the decision to extend canceled plans up to the insurance companies and state regulators.
McKinney, who also is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, said he doesn’t believe Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi has any discretion to allow these policies to be offered in Connecticut based on the laws the state has adopted.
“It is quite clear that Connecticut law makes these plans illegal regardless of the president’s administrative fiat,” McKinney wrote in a letter Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
That’s why he called upon Malloy and legislative leaders to call a special session of the General Assembly to fix it. He said it’s “imperative” that the state repeal that provision and allow “tens-of-thousands of Connecticut residents” to keep their plans.
Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba said the administration is still reviewing the changes.
“In the wake of the decision yesterday in Washington, the governor has asked the lieutenant governor and his insurance commissioner to gather the facts and determine what action, if any, needs to be taken by the state to ensure we are achieving this goal,” Doba said. “Until all the facts are in, there is no reason to call a special session.”
The Insurance Department said Thursday that it did not know how many people in the state were impacted by these cancellation notices.
However, state officials, including Malloy, don’t believe it’s a large number.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact on Connecticut,” Malloy said earlier Friday. “The insurance policies that could be sold in Connecticut were held to a substantially higher standard than the national standard. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some folks [impacted]— for instance people who secured insurance in another state and moved to Connecticut while that policy was in existence.”
In the privately-secured insurance market there’s a 46-percent turnover per year and in any given year up to 30 percent of policies are cancelled, Malloy told reporters.
He said that’s likely not a statistic they’ve heard before, but because of everything happening with the Affordable Care Act people for the first time are paying closer attention to their insurance policies. He said those types of cancellations happen in the normal course of business.
“Having said that, I think the president wants to resolve the issue,” Malloy said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the vast, vast majority of people who go on our website are ultimately going to decide that the packages available to them, particularly those who are eligible for a subsidy, are going to be pretty happy.”
Malloy was referring to the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, which has performed much better than the HealthCare.gov site being used by 36 states.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said McKinney was just playing electoral politics.
“We are the only state that has more private insurance sign-ups than Medicaid sign-ups, and we already had among the highest standards of coverage in the country,” Sharkey said. “Our health care system is too important, for too many people, to be used as one of Senator McKinney’s campaign props.”
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.