Washington House Republicans introduced legislation on the first day of the legislative session designed to help people who have lost their insurance keep some form of affordable health care.
Recently, President Obama and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have responded to reports that millions of Americans have been kicked off their coverage due to Obamacare. To mitigate the cancellations, both have announced policies that allow people to either keep their existing health care plans or be exempted from the individual mandate tax penalty and buy typically cheaper catastrophic care plans. Washington state’s Democratic insurance commissioner has not been supportive of allowing individuals to keep their pre-Obamacare plans.
Additionally, in 2012 legislation, Washington restricted the availability of the typically lower-cost catastrophic plans President Obama authorized to plans sold in the Healthcare Exchange. Plans will also be available for individuals who had plans cancelled, but only two carriers are offering the plans and they are not available statewide.
Because Washington was an early adopter of Obamacare, the low-cost catastrophic plans President Obama authorized are only available in the Healthcare Exchange. Plans will also be available for individuals who had plans cancelled, but only two carriers are offering the plans and they are not available statewide.
To overcome the Obamacare obstacles Rep. Matt Manweller has introduced two bills. The first would allow Washington residents to buy catastrophic health care plans in other states. The second bill would instruct the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to enter into compacts with other states to facilitate the purchase of health care plans from other states. This bill is similar to legislation introduced by Sen. Linda Evans Parlette which passed the Senate last year and was passed by the House Health Care Committee, but died in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Information Technology.
“The Democrats who control our state leaped into Obamacare before they looked. They drove people off the health care plans they liked and eliminated all the low cost plans they could afford. Even President Obama has realized the mistakes of his plan and offered the American people an out,” said Manweller, R-Ellensburg. “Unfortunately, the plans President Obama said we can keep don’t exist in Washington anymore. Therefore, we need to let people buy them in other states. That will bring fairness back to our health care system.”
“It’s truly unfortunate that we did not get to vote on that bill last year,” said Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, who serves at the ranking member of the House Health Care Committee. “Since then, we have seen the disastrous impact Obamacare has had on our health care system. Now that President Obama has asked states to let people keep their insurance plans, I hope the Democrats will have a change of heart and give us an up or down vote on this important bill.”
Given the problems with the rollout of Obamacare’s individual mandate, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, says he wants to prevent a similar debacle when the employer mandate hits. At the end of 2014, Obamacare will require employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health insurance or pay a penalty.
Wilcox will be introducing a bill later this week that would beef up legislative oversight of Obamacare implementation. The legislation aims to ensure the Legislature gets more detailed information on enrollment numbers and other coverage data.
“Reliable data was in short supply with the first Obamacare deadline,” said Wilcox, the House Republican Floor Leader. “At the moment we may not be able to protect people from the consequences of Obamacare, but we can at least make sure we get the facts about how it’s being implemented.”
House Republican leadership hopes to get the bills scheduled for public hearings early in the session.
“We need to solve this problem and we need to solve it now,” said Manweller. “We have people all over the state in limbo. They are getting cancelation notices from their insurers. The president is telling them it’s OK to keep their plans and the insurance commissioner is telling them they cannot. Meanwhile, people are getting sick and they have no insurance. If we don’t step in and solve this problem, people are going to suffer.”