News & Politics

DC Insurance Commissioner Fired After Obamacare Criticism

City officials dismissed William P. White for releasing a statement without approval.

William P. White, DC’s insurance commissioner who oversaw the creation of the city’s new health insurance exchange, was fired Friday, a day after airing his disagreement with President Obama’s decision to relax one of the major provisions of his health care overhaul.

White’s firing, first reported by the Washington Post, came after higher-ups in the District government said he made a severe error in judgment by releasing a statement critical of the President without approval from Mayor Vince Gray’s office. Not even an e-mail and a call to Gray’s cell phone were enough to spare White the ax for speaking out of turn.

Obama’s announcement last Thursday, in which he sought to quell anger from people whose current insurance plans are being canceled because they don’t comply with the new health-care law, was quickly followed by disapproving statements from White and his counterparts around the country.

In his statement, White said the administration’s move “undercuts the purpose of the exchanges.” White submitted his statement to Gray’s press office for review, but it was posted online about 20 minutes later, before Gray’s staff responded. The statement was quickly taken down, and White then heard from his superiors, including Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins and City Administrator Allen Lew.

“I thought I had saved up enough political capital,” White told the Post. Apparently, he hadn’t saved enough to afford talking out of class.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.