Alexander: 1,444 Cocke Countians on Obamacare Lose Blue Cross Blue Shield as an Option Next Year, Will Have Only 1 Insurer to Choose From
Says next Congress and next president must fix the Obamacare emergency
NEWPORT, Tenn., October 19, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told members of the Cocke County Chamber of Commerce that “the next Congress and the next president must fix the Obamacare emergency,” noting that the 1,444 Cocke Countians who this year have insurance on the Obamacare exchange have lost the option to buy Blue Cross Blue Shield next year, and will have only one insurer to choose from.
In August, Tennessee’s insurance commissioner described the state’s Obamacare exchange as “very near collapse,” as some insurers exit the state and others raise their rates by some of the highest amounts in the nation—as much as 62 percent next year. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the state’s largest health insurer, last month announced it would no longer sell individual insurance policies in Knoxville, Nashville or Memphis, impacting 131,000 Tennesseans. This follows United Health Group's announcement earlier this year that it would no longer offer Obamacare exchange health plans in Tennessee for the 2017 plan year. There are currently 41,000 individuals in the state currently covered by these United Health Group plans. This is in addition to the 27,000 Tennesseans who lost their Community Health Alliance health plan when the co-op collapsed in 2015.
A majority of Tennesseans on the exchange will need to find new plans next year. In 73 out of all 95 Tennessee counties, individuals will have only one insurer to choose from when buying health insurance on the Obamacare exchange for 2017. In 2016, every county had the choice of at least 2 insurers on the Obamacare exchanges.
“The Obamacare exchanges are collapsing in Tennessee and across the country because of federal mandates, a lack of flexibility for states and fewer choices for families,” Alexander said. “The next Congress and the next president will need to work together to provide relief to Tennesseans paying 44 to 62 percent more in health insurance premiums—with at least 30,000 Tennesseans paying entirely out of their own pockets—and facing fewer health plan choices under Obamacare. The right prescription is not more of what caused the disease. We need to repeal and replace Obamacare with step by step solutions that give states more flexibility and individuals more choices to buy private health insurance that meets their families’ health care needs and budgets."
Last month, Alexander introduced emergency, one-year legislation that would have given states with failing Obamacare exchanges the authority to allow Americans who rely on Obamacare subsidies to buy any health plan they want, even if they purchase it outside of an Obamacare exchange. The legislation would also waive Obamacare's individual mandate, so Americans would no longer be penalized for not purchasing a federal government-approved health plan.
Democrats did not support the legislation and instead announced support for creating a government-run health plan, or “public option."
Alexander told the Cocke County chamber today that in addition to the risk of losing their current insurer, Cocke Countians are also at risk of losing their current doctors. The doctors at the state’s top hospital-- Vanderbilt University Medical Center-- were considered “in network providers” for Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Health Group plans in 2016. With the exit of these plans from many or all exchanges in Tennessee, it is anticipated that in at least Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis, none of the remaining health plans will have network agreements with Vanderbilt University health care providers in 2017.
This means thousands of Tennesseans buying plans on the exchange either have to pay more in "out of network provider" fees when they seek the same care at Vanderbilt University or they will be unable to have their care covered by their new insurance plan altogether.
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