Memphis Obamacare Op-Ed

Posted on March 3, 2017

There is an Obamacare emergency in our state, and Tennesseans are right to care about the damage Obamacare is doing. Last year, BlueCross BlueShield—the oldest and largest insurer in Tennessee—pulled out of Memphis, leaving Humana and Cigna as the only insurance companies on the Memphis exchange for 2017. Last month, Humana announced it would not sell insurance on the Obamacare exchanges in 2018 – leaving 70,000 Tennesseans faced with finding new health coverage, including 40,000 Knoxville residents where Humana was the only option. They may have an Obamacare subsidy, but it’ll be like holding a bus ticket in a town where no buses run. In Memphis, Humana’s decision leaves Memphians on the exchange with only one insurance option next year.

I have been saying for months that Congress needs to act immediately to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges. In February, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule to help rescue Americans from the currently collapsing Obamacare individual market – a good first step towards rescuing the health care market that the Tennessee state insurance commissioner says is “very near collapse.”

Without this course of action, many of the 18 million Americans in the individual insurance market may have zero choices for insurance next year.

Here is what we are working to do: We will first send in a rescue crew to repair temporarily a collapsing health care market so Americans who buy individual insurance can continue to do so while we build a better set of concrete, practical alternatives.

Then, step by step, we will build better systems that provide Americans with more choices of health insurance at a lower cost. We will do this by moving health care decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and patients – which will help states where the individual market is struggling, including in Tennessee. Testifying at a Senate health committee hearing last month, Tennessee’s Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak urged Congress to give more flexibility back to states, so that the rules governing Tennessee’s insurance plans are written to meet Tennesseans’ needs.

For example, I am working to give Memphis residents relief from Obamacare’s mandates. Under Obamacare, subsidies can only be used on the Obamacare exchanges, and I want to give Memphians the ability to use their subsidies to buy from plans not sold on the Obamacare exchanges so that they’ll have more coverage options for their families.

Finally, when our reforms become concrete, practical alternatives, the repeal of the remaining parts of Obamacare will go into effect in order to repair the damage it has caused Americans.

If your local bridge were “very near collapse,” the first thing you would do is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt.

Then you would build a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, as states develop their own plans for providing access to truly affordable health care to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished, you would close the old bridge.

It’s time to stop fighting like the Hatfields and the McCoys over Obamacare. Tennesseans expect the new Congress and administration to work together to quickly fix the Obamacare emergency in our state.