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Oregon Insurance Officials Defend Health Plan Extensions

Oregon's insurance commissioner is defending a decision to allow health insurance companies to keep policies in place for a year even if they don't comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Legislative attorney Lorey Freeman this week wrote that Oregon Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali "exceeded her legal authority" in her decision to allow health insurance companies to extend certain plans another year.

But the legal opinion is just that: An opinion. Unlike a court order, it's non-binding. And Oregon insurance officials strongly disagree.

Deputy insurance division administrator Berri Leslie says the agency feels it's on solid ground by allowing people to renew non-compliant plans by the end of this year.

"Very clearly the 2014 insurance reforms apply to the plan or policy year that starts January 1, 2014," she says. "So plans issued in 2013 are not subject to the reforms."

The legal opinion was sought out by Republican state representative Dennis Richardson, who's also running for governor.

Nine health insurance companies have decided to allow coverage renewals in the wake of the troubled roll-out of Oregon's health insurance exchange.