Insurance head’s Obama blast skirted right chan­nels

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

The de­ci­sion to fire the Dis­trict’s insurance com­mis­sioner came swiftly af­ter he crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Obama’s plan to let peo­ple with cov­er­age that does not meet the Af­ford­able Care Act’s stan­dards ex­tend their plans for one year.

But D.C. of­fi­cials still have yet to de­cide whether they will im­ple­ment the plan or forge ahead with their own health ex­change.

“We haven’t even got­ten into the de­tails of that,” D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray said Mon­day. “We will ask for in­put from Health Link, which is our mar­ket­place.”

Mr. Gray said he also plans to speak with Mila Kof­man, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the D.C. Health Ben­e­fit Ex­change Au­thor­ity.

A spokes­woman said Ms. Kof­man was un­avail­able for com­ment Mon­day. Of­fi­cials on Fri­day fired the com­mis­sioner of the Depart­ment of Insurance, Se­cu­ri­ties and Bank­ing, Wil­liam P. White, af­ter he is­sued a state­ment crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent’s plan — a state­ment that D.C. of­fi­cials said was not ap­proved through the proper chan­nels. Mr. Gray de­clined to speak specif­i­cally about Mr. White’s ter­mi­na­tion.

Mr. White is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing the pres­i­dent’s plan “un­der­cuts the pur­pose of the ex­changes, in­clud­ing the Dis­trict’s DC Health Link, by cre­at­ing ex­cep­tions that make it more dif­fi­cult for them to op­er­ate.”

An of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of Mr. White’s ter­mi­na­tion said the com­mis­sioner was not fired for the sub­stance of his mes­sage, but be­cause he didn’t run it first by Deputy Mayor for Plan­ning and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Vic­tor L. Hoskins, or wait for ap­proval from Mr. Gray’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff be­fore post­ing

of pro­fil­ing and we don’t want that,” said Mr. Men­del­son, a Demo­crat. “The lim­ited pur­pose driver’s li­cense re­ally isn’t that dis­tin­guish­able.”

Asked whether he thought un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents would get the li­cense de­spite the mark­ing, Mr. Men­del­son re­sponded, “Ab­so­lutely.”

“The ex­pe­ri­ence in other states is that it will very much be in de­mand,” he said.

The Dis­trict joins 11 states and Puerto Rico in of­fer­ing some form of driver’s li­cense to un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents. The ma­jor­ity of the ju­ris­dic­tions also use a spe­cial no­ti­fi­ca­tion on the li­censes, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, where Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s law into ef­fect in Oc­to­ber.

Dur­ing the sign­ing, im­mi­grant rights ac­tivists and sup­port­ers of the bill ap­plauded and ex­changed hand­shakes and hugs with the mayor af­ter­ward.

“I’m re­ally proud to be a part of the ef­fort to bring about im­mi­gra­tion re­form here in the Dis­trict of Columbia and across the na­tion,” Mr. Gray said.

The law is sub­ject to a con­gres­sional re­view of 30 leg­isla­tive days. Mr. Gray said he ex­pects the Dis­trict’s Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles to be ready to is­sue the li­censes by May 1.


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