Alexander: HHS Action a Good First Step to Rescue Americans from Collapsing Health Care Market

Posted on February 15, 2017

Says without this course of action, “having an Obamacare subsidy could soon be like having a bus ticket in a town where no buses run”

WASHINGTON, February  15 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following statement after the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule on market stabilization to help rescue Americans from the currently collapsing Obamacare individual market:

“Today’s administrative action by Secretary Price is a good first step towards rescuing the health care market that Tennessee's 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, so having an Obamacare subsidy could soon be like having a bus ticket in a town where no buses run. I continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and the administration on next steps.”

At the Senate health committee’s hearing on the collapsing individual market on February 1, 2017, Alexander said: “In my home state of Tennessee, in September of 2016, we woke up one morning and BlueCross BlueShield announced that it was pulling out of Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville.  That’s 131,000 people who had BlueCross insurance in the individual market.  And they wouldn’t be able to buy it in 2017. So they don’t have that option this year… That’s an alarm bell in every one of those homes. It’s a lot of trouble when you lose your insurance option. And in two-thirds of our counties in Tennessee, people who buy their insurance through the exchanges only have one option now.  And that’s true in a third of the counties across the country.”

Alexander concluded his opening remarks at that 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.  It’d be like having a bus ticket in a town where no buses run. 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.”

Background on today’s Proposed Rule:

  • Includes several provisions aimed at lowering premiums and increasing access to affordable health coverage for the 2018 plan year.
  • Reduces special enrollment periods and requires verification of eligibility for special enrollment periods to help encourage continuous health coverage.
  • Adjusts payment rules so insurance plans are paid by enrollees for their services and the cost of unpaid premiums aren’t passed on to other enrollees.
  • Provides more flexibility on “actuarial value” rules, so plans can take steps to provide more options to consumers.
  • Gives states flexibility to determine network adequacy for health plans. 

# # #