Alexander: Congress Can Lower Health Insurance Costs 40% for Farmers, Plumbers, Self-Employed

Posted on March 16, 2018

Says his proposal to lower premiums should be included in spending bill next week

“Plumbers making $60,000 a year and receiving zero government subsidy are paying $20,000 for health insurance. No one can afford that.” — Lamar Alexander  

WASHINGTON, March 15 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said on the Senate floor that when Congress passes the omnibus appropriations spending bill next week, it should include policies to lower health insurance rates by up to 40%.

“I’m on the floor today to say to every plumber, farmer, songwriter, and self-employed person in this country, somebody who might be between jobs, that if the Congress will act, we can lower their rates next year for up to as much as 40%,” Alexander said.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have proposed legislation for inclusion in the omnibus appropriations bill to help stabilize the collapsing individual health insurance market by funding three years of reinsurance, funding cost-sharing reduction subsidies for three years, giving permanent additional ACA waiver flexibility for states, and permanently expanding eligibility for copper plans.

Earlier this week, an analysis by consulting firm Oliver Wyman projected that passage of such a proposal could result in up to 40% lower premiums than what people in the individual market would pay if Congress doesn’t act, and cover 3.2 million more people.  

“If you're paying $20,000 for your health insurance – and you're that $60,000 a year plumber, that's by my math $8,000, that cuts your insurance to $12,000 – you get down towards something you might be able to afford. Can you imagine anything more frightening than approaching next year knowing that you might not be able to afford health insurance for your family? And you're thinking, well, look, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, and the government has not gotten me on any kind of subsidy to buy health insurance. I'm out here working. I'm paying my taxes… If I’m making $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year, I cannot afford $15,000, $20,000 a year. If I’m a farmer in Iowa or a miner in Alaska or a songwriter in Nashville, you can't afford that and you shouldn't have to.”

Alexander concluded saying that if Congress doesn’t act, “Rates will go up. The individual market will probably collapse. It was near collapse a year ago. By collapse I mean there will be counties where people can't buy insurance at all. There will be 11 million people who are between jobs, who are self-employed, who are working, who literally cannot afford insurance, and they're not going to be very happy. And they're going to blame every one of us, and they should.”

Video of the floor speech is here.