New D.C. insurance mandate breaks Obama’s promise, coalition says

Washington D.C. small businesses are now required to buy health insurance plans through the government, despite complaints that it violates President Barack Obama’s promise that Americans can “keep our health care insurance if we like it” under the Affordable Care Act.

Last Wednesday, The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority (HBX) unanimously voted to require all businesses in the district with 50 members or less to purchase employee health insurance plans through the exchange, despite backlash from local businesses.

Before the HBX ruling, a coalition of more than 150 small businesses and associations signed a letter arguing that the new exchange mandate undermined “President Obama’s repeated assurances that, ‘If you like your health plan . . . you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.’ ”

“If you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have,” President Obama said during the debate over health care reform.

HBX is responsible for carrying out state level insurance exchanges, authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

These exchanges are aimed to make insurance less expensive and more reliable, but the small business coalition letter insists the exchange is “an undefined, untested, more expensive entity”.

“The diversity of small employer health plans currently available in the District cannot be replicated in the standardized plans offered by the Exchange,” according to the letter.

The mandate will affect 7,300 District employers who provide plans to employees — more than 125,000 people, according to a 2010 report from the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance.

“The concern is about all these additional costs that are being added onto premiums that are already skyrocketing,” small business coalition spokeswoman Hannah Turner told the Washington Post.

“All of these things are just adding onto small-employer costs,” she said.

The Obama health care law requires that all insurance plans bought with the exchange must meet certain coverage conditions.

D.C. will join Vermont as the second state to require smaller groups purchase healthcare through the exchange.

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