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Lamar Alexander: Here’s how to fix the Obamacare emergency

Lamar Alexander • Feb 25, 2017 at 5:00 PM

There is an Obamacare emergency in Tennessee. Humana’s announcement that it is pulling out of all Obamacare exchanges could leave 40,000 residents in Knoxville with no health care exchange options next year – they may have an Obamacare subsidy, but it’ll be like holding a bus ticket in a town where no buses run.

This news from Humana should light a fire under every member of Congress to work together with Secretary Tom Price to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges before even more individuals have no insurance options next year. 

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule to help rescue Americans from the currently collapsing Obamacare individual market.

This action by Secretary Price was 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 give Americans access to truly affordable health care. 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 this month, Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak urged Congress to give more flexibility back to states, stressing that it would stabilize and regulate their markets.

Finally, when our reforms become concrete, practical alternatives, the repeal of the remaining parts of Obamacare will go into effect 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.

Lamar Alexander represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.

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