Alexander: Humana Announcement Could Leave 40,000 Knoxville Residents with Zero Health Exchange Options for 2018

Posted on February 15, 2017

Humana exit from Obamacare exchange means 70,000 Tennesseans on the exchanges will be faced with finding new health coverage in 2018 — including 40,000 Knoxville residents where Humana is currently the only option

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 “Yesterday's news from Humana should light a fire under every member of Congress to work together to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges before they have no insurance options next year."

WASHINGTON, February 15 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following statement on the news that Humana is pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges in Tennessee and 10 other states, leaving 70,000 Tennesseans faced with finding new health coverage for next year – including 40,000 Knoxville residents who currently have no other insurance options on the exchange:

“Yesterday's news from Humana should light a fire under every member of Congress to work together to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges before they have no insurance options next year. Humana is the only insurer currently on the Obamacare exchange in Knoxville – which means 40,000 Knoxville residents may have an Obamacare subsidy next year, but it’ll be like holding a bus ticket in a town where no buses run.” 

Earlier this month, Alexander chaired a hearing on the need to stabilize the individual market and invited Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak – who said last year that Tennessee’s Obamacare exchange was ‘very near collapse’ – to discuss specific solutions and a timeline for addressing the problems.

Alexander said at the hearing, “We may reach a situation in 2018 where many Americans have a subsidy through the Affordable Care Act to buy insurance in the individual market, but they don’t have any insurance to buy.  … Right now in two thirds of our counties we’ve got only one bus running through town and in 2018 we might have zero. That’s the problem to solve."

He continued, “Now, it doesn’t make as much a difference to me as to whose fault that is. I can make a pretty good speech about that and you can make a pretty good speech saying why it’s not your fault or it is our fault.  I think the question the American people want to know, particularly if they’re among the 11 million people in the exchanges or the 18 million in the whole individual market, is well: What are you going to do about that?”

Alexander today renewed his call for the Congress and the administration to move forward on a rescue plan. He offered ideas – including those discussed at the hearing – that may be done through legislation or administrative action to help the 11 million Americans who buy individual insurance on the Obamacare exchanges:

  • Continue cost-sharing subsidies to help pay for high deductibles and premium subsidies, for a transitional period;
  • Reduce special enrollment periods and verify eligibility for special enrollment periods generally;
  • Adjust grace periods so insurance plans are paid for their services;
  • Repeal or loosen age-rating restrictions, which limit the difference between premiums insurers can charge young and older people;
  • Give states more flexibility to define "Essential Health Benefits"; and
  • Allow individuals to use their Obamacare subsidies to purchase plans outside of Obamacare exchanges.

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