Posted on December 8, 2017
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2017 – Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) urged Congress to deliver “a very good Christmas present” by passing his bipartisan legislation to lower health insurance premiums by 18 percent -- that's according to Avalere, which is one of the leading health consulting firms in the country and made the announcement this week.
The senator said that the legislation will not just reduce premiums, but will also reduce the amount of federal tax dollars that go to pay for Obamacare subsidies, according to the Congressional Budget Office, because "if the premiums are lower, the subsidies are going to be lower. And if the subsidies are lower, then the federal debt is going to be lower,” Alexander said.
The legislative package would include the Alexander-Murray bill to fund cost-sharing reduction payments for two years that help low-income Americans pay for co-pays and deductibles. It would give states more flexibility in creating policies at a lower cost and allow anyone to buy a “catastrophic” healthcare plan with lower premiums and higher deductibles. The package would also include the Collins-Nelson bill, which is based upon the experience of Maine and Alaska in using invisible risk pools and reinsurance funds to create a pool of money to pay for the healthcare needs of the very sick, thereby reducing premiums by as much as 20 percent for everybody else.
Alexander told the story of a Nashvillian he met who will pay $1,300 a month next year in premiums:
“On Wednesday, I was in Nashville, and I went to Chick-fil-A on Charlotte at about 2 pm in the afternoon. I ordered six chicken nuggets, some mac and cheese and some waffle fries. As I was about to leave, and a lady walked up to me and said, ‘Senator, thank you for what you're doing to help me with insurance.’
“She said, ‘My name is Marty. I'm a self-employed farmer. And the year before Obamacare started, my monthly insurance premium was $300. Next year, it's $1,300, and it's very hard for me to afford.’
“I said, ‘I guess you're one of those Americans who work hard and you don't get any government subsidy to help you pay for your health insurance.’ She said, ‘That's exactly right. I have to pay for the whole thing myself.’
“I said, ‘Well, Marty, I’ve got a Christmas present for you if Congress can pass by the end of the month legislation that would lower your premiums in the year 2019 by 18%-- that's according to Avalere, which is one of the leading health consulting firms in the country who made that announcement yesterday.
“‘So if your premiums are $1,300 a month, that's a couple thousand dollars less you'll have to pay. That's still way too high. Or if the Senate and the House in the tax bill agree to remove the individual mandate penalizing you if you don’t buy insurance that will put upward pressure on those same rates but only by about 10%. So you're still going to get an average 8% decrease in your rates in 2019, and that's about $1,000 in your pocket. Those are real dollars.’
The average Tennessean has seen premiums rise 176% over the last five years and an additional 58 percent this year, the senator said.
“So a very good Christmas present for Marty and men and women like her across this country would be for this Congress, before the end of the month, to pass what we call the Alexander-Murray and the Collins-Nelson legislation which will lower premiums by 18%."
Watch the rest of Sen. Alexander’s floor speech here.