Delaware delegation leads national effort in saving health insurance jobs

 Cigna offices in Wilmington (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Cigna offices in Wilmington (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Delaware’s Congressional delegation worked to successfully get passed an amendment to the Affordable Care Act, saving hundreds of health insurance jobs in the First State.

The ACA, which was passed in 2010, overhauled health care in the United States. The new health regulations have faced praise and criticism from lawmakers across the country.

For the most part, Delaware has embraced the new health regulations, however, lawmakers quickly realized that a provision on expatriate insurance could put thousands of jobs on the chopping block.

Expatriate insurance covers Americans working overseas as well as foreign workers and their families in the U.S.

Under the ACA, expatriate insurers in the United States would have to comply with new regulations, making them uncompetitive with foreign insurers who do not have to follow the same rules.

In Delaware, about 500 employees write expatriate insurance at Cigna in Wilmington with an additional 700 employees in California.

“Missionaries, expatriates engineers, people who take the skills and strengths and talents of this nation and go and put them to work around the world making a difference, but are confident that they can do so, because they have the backing of health insurance for them or their family,” explained U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware.

The Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification bill, sponsored by Delaware Congressman John Carney, was introduced to clarify that the ACA should not apply to expatriate insurance.

Carney said it took more than a year to get enough support to pass the legislation.

“I was serving in the Democratic caucus in the House, the minority caucus, and there are a lot of people in our caucus who didn’t want to make any change,” he said.

The Senate faced similar resistance, but the legislation was eventually included in the national omnibus spending package, which passed in December.

Gov. Jack Markell praised Delaware lawmakers for their persistence on Capitol Hill.

“They never forget why they go to Washington and the reason they all go is to fight for the people back here,” he said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.