Tells Chattanooga Rotary, "Tennesseans need more choices to buy healthcare that fits their budgets, needs"
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Nov. 10, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told members of the Chattanooga Rotary that the results of Tuesday’s election should mean “less Washington involvement in telling us what to do in our everyday lives” and an opportunity to fix the “Obamacare emergency.”
Alexander said, "A Republican president, working with a Republican Congress, could reduce Washington’s involvement in our lives and solve some of the problems that were the source of voters’ frustration. I think American voters expect that President-elect Trump and Congress will get to work quickly on fixing the Obamacare emergency – providing immediate relief to Tennesseans paying 44 to 62 percent more in health insurance premiums – and then repealing and replacing Obamacare with step by step solutions that give states more flexibility and individuals more choices to buy private health insurance that meets their families’ healthcare needs and budgets."
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, in September 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. “In most of our counties, people only have one choice – we need to give more people more choices."
In September, 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."
"Democrats propose even more federal control, but 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.”
Alexander told the Chattanooga Rotary today that in addition to the risk of losing their current insurer, many Tennesseans 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.
Alexander said he hoped the president-elect would review the regulations on healthcare in addition to education and labor that President Obama has put out exceeding legal authority and either repeal them, not enforce them or change them.
Alexander also talked about the importance of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, something the president-elect has said is a priority.
“We badly need a long-term, big time plan for how to get from one place to another. Everyone is talking about it including President-elect Trump and Gov. Haslam,” the senator said. “I hope the president will take a look at this opportunity for a big infrastructure plan for roads and bridges to keep America moving.”
Alexander mentioned the importance of maintaining infrastructure in Tennessee, including inland waterways, harbors, highways and transit systems.