Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner was among a group of state regulators at the White House on Thursday to meet with President Barack Obama for a question-and-answer session on the successes and failures of the Affordable Care Act.
State Insurance Commissioner John Doak was one of 44 chief insurance regulators who met with the president and members of his administration to discuss 2015 enrollment issues under the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare.
The meeting was called by the White House to focus on the end of open enrollment in 2014 and preparing for the 2015 open enrollment period, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Doak said the leaders discussed a range of topics during a conversation that lasted about 90 minutes, although the regulators did not bring up Medicaid expansion.
Doak said he didn’t get a chance to ask Obama a specific question, but during a brief conversation with the president, Doak talked about the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma last May.
“I highly respect the office of the president of the United States, and I think it’s a great opportunity to articulate our Oklahoma views,” Doak said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “I thanked him for his quick action relative to the Moore tornado victims and their assistance, and we agreed while we have dramatic policy differences, discussion and dialogue is appropriate.”
After the meeting with state regulators, Obama made a surprise appearance Thursday in the White House briefing room to celebrate new marketplace figures, which beat initial projections by 1 million people.
Eight million people have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, Obama said Thursday, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead of the mid-term elections.
Equally critical: About 35 percent of those who signed up are younger than 35, Obama said. Enrolling substantial numbers of younger, healthier Americans is crucial for the law’s success.
“This thing is working,” Obama said of the Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement.
Doak was less enthusiastic.
The Republican leader said he thought the number of young people who have enrolled in plans is low — and that because of those low numbers, Oklahomans can expect an increase in their insurance rates.
Early estimates from insurance companies show Oklahomans could be looking at a significant rate increase in 2015, potentially 30 to 50 percent, said James Mills, state Insurance Department assistant general counsel.
“They are finding that people with major health issues are the first ones signing up for the coverage,” Doak said. “The White House ... marketing director ran through all of the areas of how they’re trying to attract younger Americans, and the program should be good enough to stand on its own without having to do these types of events and video contests.”
Doak said Obama did not reveal any data about the number of people who have paid for the private health insurance plans they selected through the marketplace.
Contributing: The Associated Press