Chattanooga Times Free Press: Haslam, McPeak to testify before Senate panel on health insurance premiums

Posted on August 29, 2017

NASHVILLE — U.S. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is inviting Gov. Bill Haslam and his state insurance commissioner, Julie Mix McPeak, to testify before his panel next month on steps Congress should take to stabilize health insurance premium costs for individuals nationwide.

"There are 350,000 Tennesseans — songwriters, farmers, and the self-employed — who do not get their health insurance from the government or on the job, which means they must buy insurance in the individual market," Alexander said Wednesday in a news release. "My goal by the end of September is to give them peace of mind that they will be able to buy insurance at a more reasonable price for the year 2018."

The bipartisan hearings with the Health Committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, are scheduled for Sept. 6 and 7.

Alexander announced the hearings shortly after Republican efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, collapsed in the GOP-run Senate.

Senators are now looking at ways to shore up the program in which individual premium costs have soared in Tennessee and other states.

A bipartisan slate of five governors, including Haslam, a Republican, have been invited to testify, as well as state insurance commissioners including McPeak.

Alexander said Congress is "fortunate" that Haslam and McPeak "are willing to provide senators with their insight and expertise as we work to help ensure that the 18 million Americans in the individual insurance market will be able to buy insurance at more affordable prices in 2018."

McPeak and other state insurance commissioners will appear before Alexander's committee on Sept. 6 to discuss stabilizing premiums and helping people in the individual insurance market.

Haslam and the four other governors testify on the same issue the following day.

Besides Haslam, other governors testifying are Republican Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Democrat Steve Bullock of Montana, Republican Gary Herbert of Utah and Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado.