Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi emerged Wednesday from a 50-minute meeting with President Barack Obama convinced that the president wasn’t trying to persuade him or his colleagues to let canceled insurance plans back into the marketplace.
Leonardi, Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, and former U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, who is now the executive director of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, met with Obama in the Oval Office to discuss last week’s decision to allow states to continue for another year the plans canceled under the Affordable Care Act.
Last week, Obama attempted to make good on an often-repeated pledge that consumers who like their insurance plans could keep them. In doing so, he took state insurance commissioners, insurance companies, and governors by surprise. His announcement forced states to reach a decision about how to treat these canceled policies.
According to this New York Times article, 13 states have said they would allow consumers to renew canceled plans and eight, including New York and Massachusetts, have said they would not carry out the policy.
“The president understands that regulation is state-based,” Leonardi said.
Leonardi said Connecticut is still analyzing the situation and the marketplace and has not made a decision about whether it will allow the canceled plans back into the marketplace.
“We don’t want to do a knee-jerk reaction,” Leonardi said.
But members of the Republican minority in the legislature are breathing down the Insurance Department’s neck looking for an answer.
“We are frustrated by the lack of response and confused by the information that has been released so far,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney wrote Tuesday in a letter to Leonardi.
Cafero and McKinney said the 27,000 policies that were canceled in Connecticut likely belong to only one insurance carrier. They said the entire universe of canceled policies is probably more in the neighborhood of 53,000.
On Monday in a radio interview, Leonardi said that out of an preliminary 27,000 cancellations, only about 9,000 were related to the Affordable Care Act.
“The numbers the commissioner offered earlier this week were based on rough data the department had to date,” Donna Tommelleo, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Department, said. “The governor has directed the department to conduct a comprehensive review of all the facts, options and logistics and that process is ongoing. The department expects to have final, updated data in the days ahead.”
Leonardi told reporters Wednesday to forget about the numbers.
“The education of our consumers is our top priority right now,” Leonardi said. “We’re trying to get people to understand which of those policies they have because virtually all the complaints we’re receiving at the insurance department are actually the grandfathered policies.”
He said he knows people don’t like to hear this but insurance companies usually “turn over their entire block of business every three years.”
Leonardi said he believes the problem is that the insurance companies are canceling plans that are, in fact, grandfathered under the ACA.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the rollout of the healthcare law Tuesday during an unrelated event.
“I think Washington has messed this thing up pretty badly. I’m not happy with them,” Malloy said. “We’ve done a great job here in Connecticut and I think that we can do a better job helping folks.”