Idaho attorney general, others say Obama health-insurance decision is 'flatly illegal'

adutton@idahostatesman.comJanuary 3, 2014 

Idaho is now among several states challenging how President Obama decided to let consumers keep their insurance plans this year even if those plans don't meet requirements set by the 2010 health care reform law.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and 10 other attorneys general called the proposed rule "flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law," in a letter last week to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Obama announced in November that he would let insurance companies keep offering plans that have extremely high deductibles, barebones coverage or otherwise fall short of new standards for insurance plans. The announcement came as consumers were hearing from insurers that their 2013 plans would no longer exist. At the same time, consumers reported they could not enroll in new plans because of malfunctioning health insurance exchange websites.

Insurers in Idaho have since said they will extend those plans for another year, allowing about 100,000 people to keep their coverage.

The letter signed by Wasden said Obama's administration did not "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" as required by the Constitution. "The President cannot simply set aside statutes or rewrite them as he pleases," the letter said.

The change also forced on insurance companies a new disclosure requirement that hadn't been adopted by Congress or through the public rulemaking process, the officials wrote.

"More broadly, we are deeply concerned that this administration is consistently rewriting new rules and effectively inventing statutory provisions" to roll out "a flawed law," the letter said. "And the irony, of course, is that the changes being put forth ... will ultimately destroy the market and increase health insurance premiums for consumers who played by the rules."

Wasden and the other attorneys general said they support the spirit of Obama's announcement — that people should be able to keep their coverage if they like it — but argued that changes must be made by Congress, not the administration.

The letter also accuses the department of ignoring a "widespread public outcry over the security of consumers' private information throughout the enrollment process" on health insurance exchanges.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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