Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered a calculated rebuke to the White House Wednesday for the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, an issue threatening to dog Malloy and other Democrats facing re-election in 2014.
Malloy, who was a campaign surrogate for President Obama during the 2012 campaign, stepped away from the president and aligned himself with consumers frustrated by the implementation of the health care law.
“I understand this frustration,” Malloy said. “I’m frustrated. I think the federal government has messed up big time. This couldn’t have been a worse rollout, except in the states that embraced what we’re trying to do. In Connecticut, we're signing up people left and right.”
Malloy spoke at midday, hours before his insurance commissioner, Thomas B. Leonardi, was to meet at the White House on behalf of insurance regulators. Last week, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, state Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney of Fairfield, made Obamacare a gubernatorial issue by challenging Malloy to call a special legislative session to deal with the issue of policy cancellations.
McKinney tagged Malloy as a champion and cheerleader of the president and his policy. On Wednesday, McKinney and House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, accused the Malloy administration of downplaying the extent of cancellations in Connecticut.
The governor Wednesday defended the overall aims of Obamacare and the law’s implementation in Connecticut, but he said the Obama administration has fumbled its launch and virtually every step taken since to restore public confidence.
“Their communication has been abysmal,” he said.
Malloy left no doubt that he sees Obama’s proposal to deal with the cancellation of existing policies as unnecessarily involving governors in a presidential mess.
“They shifted their problem to me, and I don’t appreciate it,” Malloy said.
The president is letting each state’s insurance department decide whether policies that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s standards can be extended into 2014.
“I think there is a lack of understanding in the White House how complicated this issue is on a state-by-state basis," Malloy said.
Malloy said he would prefer a federal solution to a federal problem, such as expanding the subsidy for people whose policies are being canceled.
According to projections by Leonardi, about 27,000 health insurance policies are slated to be discontinued in the state. Of those, about 9,000 are subject to the change Obama announced last week, which applies to policies that would have had to be discontinued next year because they don’t meet the requirements of the health law. Obama's plan would allow insurers to extend those policies for one year.
Connecticut is one of 16 states that is implementing Obamacare with its own website and insurance exchange, and Malloy urged consumers who need insurance to shop at the Access Health CT site.
"Sign up. Come to the website. Do the cost comparisons," Malloy said. "Most people are going to find out they're going to make out pretty well.”