Filed Under:Health Insurance, Individual Health

D.C. commissioner fired over 'own policy' uproar

Mayor's office fires Insurance Commissioner William P. White

Updated - with no comment from Mayor's office, comment from White.

The insurance commissioner of Washington, D.C. has apparently become a casualty over the controversy dealing with President Obama’s “you can keep your own insurance policy” commitment.

Commissioner William P. White was notified Friday by Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins, who works for  D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, that his services are no longer needed.

This article is based on a written copy of White’s resignation obtained by The National Underwriter; Gray’s office did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

White, right, issued a press statement Nov. 14 saying that the action by President Obama allowing extension of policy contracts not meeting the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “undercuts the purpose of the exchanges, including the District’s D.C. Health Link, by creating exceptions that make it more difficult for them to operate.”

White, an independent who is not affiliated with a political party, said in an interview Saturday, Nov. 16, that he concurred with the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s (NAIC) sentiment, which stated that “This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.” 

The decision is effective Dec. 2, although, in practice, White left the office the day he was notified. His email refers to Nov. 16 as his last day in government service. He was notified just after returning from an insurance-regulation-related trip to Korea. 

White said in an interview that Hoskins told him the city “was moving in a different direction.”

White said he wasn’t entirely surprised at the mayor’s decision, given that this is an election year and things are always sensitive.

White said he was keeping his options open, and although he oversaw banking and securities as part of his office, he is an insurance man by trade. 

White was confirmed by the City Council of the District of Columbia on June 7, 2011, by a unanimous vote. He is the chief regulator of the District of Columbia’s financial-services industries but played a large part on the national and international regulatory stages, as well.  

White has been very active in policy discussions with the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), the EU-U.S. Dialogue, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), as well as in the District on local policy health insurance  matters. White is also member of the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance (FACI).

"I thought he was very bright and articulate, and one of a small number of commissioners who was very involved in international issues," said Connecticut Insurance Commissioner and  the chair of the NAIC's International Committee, Tom Leonardi, via email. "He will be sorely missed at the NAIC and I am saddened by the news that he is no longer the D.C. Commissioner." White was Leonardi's vice chair.  

White’s issues include insurance and reinsurance captives regulation, solvency, international insurance standards, availability and affordability of insurance and reserving, among others. From 2003 to 2004, White was director of the captive insurance division for Washington, D.C. In 2006, then Delaware Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn hired White, who was then living in New Jersey as a senior vice president at Heartland Fidelity Insurance Co., to administer a new program for the Delaware Department of Insurance aimed at attracting captive insurance companies to the state.

In the interview Saturday, White said he was very proud of the DISB’s track record, and what his rehabilitation team was able to accomplish with the rehabilitation of Chartered Health Plan, especially when a year ago such prospects seemed dim. 

White said he was able to meet the three key objectives he laid out, namely making sure all policyholders continued to get their Medicaid benefits, making sure all employees were able to keep their job or be offered one, and making sure the providers were paid. Chartered’s assets were sold to Amerihealth, effective May 1. 

Medicaid benefits continues for all, all Chartered employees were offered jobs at Amerihealth and health care providers have received more than 80 cents on the dollar for what they were owned, White noted.

White said he was also leaving the department in a position of strength. The DISB has continued to contribute more than $100 million to general fund every year that he has been commissioner -- not on taxpayer money, but industry fees and premium taxes -- and that is due to a very good team of professionals at the DISB, he said.

White also said his realignment of the DISB's banking bureau has created a resurrection of that arm of the DISB, especially since it was on life support when he arrived. It now provides market services support for small businesses. White credited Gray for a lot of the progress in the District and the DISB. 

Deputy Chester McPherson will now service interim commissioner a DISB news release related Sunday; White's  email directed all commissioner questions to him. He did not respond this weekend.

To be sure, other state insurance commissioners have reported displeasure with the extension of substandard (below the new EHB standards) policies because of its potential to keep people out of the state-based or federaly-run exchange marketplaces, all calibrated for a spread of risk, and cause premiums spikes. 

Montana Insurance and Securities Commissioner and NAIC executive Committee Vice President Monica Lindeen stated about the Obamacare policy extension, according to the Flathead Beacon, (MT), "I am in the process of deciding what authority I have or I don’t have. I am also in conversations with Montana’s insurance companies to see how this announcement affects their business plans and Montana consumers. This kind of confusion is precisely why I have always fought for keeping insurance regulation at the state level. We know our markets, our companies and our neighbors better than Washington, D.C. does.”

Immediate past president of the NAIC, Kevin McCarty, Florida’s commissioner, however, “pledged” to work with any company that chooses to continue coverage in accordance with the president’s transitional policy...” 

Commissioner Mike Kreidler of Washington State, the longest-serving state insurance commissioner active now, flat-out rejected the new Obama fix, stating that “I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington. In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course. We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.” 

For his part, White added Monday that his comments "on issues affecting insurance, securities, and banking markets in DC have always been understood to be from the regulatory perspective.  I do not speak for the Mayor and have never indicated otherwise.  I was not criticizing the President, but I was calling into question the course of action being suggested because of its potential impact on the DC marketplace and its residents. The statement reflected concerns but also made clear that DISB would work with stakeholders to determine what would be the best course of action for DC. In this instance the political aspects overshadowed what I believe were the more important marketplace concerns.  I have been committed to the exchange idea because I believed it would improve the delivery of healthcare to District residents.  I think what we have accomplished goes a long way toward making that a reality. I thought I was doing my job by protecting what we have built."

 UPDATE: The Mayor's office says it does not coment on personnel matters. 
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