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Affordable Care Act’s future uncertain after congress rejects Alexander fix

By Stephanie Carson • Apr 13, 2018 at 8:52 PM

NASHVILLE – Will the tens of thousands of Tennesseans covered under the Affordable Care Act have coverage in future years?

The answer is uncertain after a bill crafted by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., failed to make it into the spending bill advanced in Congress in March. 

The bill would have restored payments to insurers to supplement co-payments and deductibles and give states more power to regulate health insurance under the ACA.

Jacy Warrell, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, said while Alexander’s proposal didn’t fix everything, it was a step forward.

“What has some people concerned about the bill: It might not be enough after all the damage that has already been done with attempted ACA repeals and it doesn’t fix everything, but it does help some people at some income levels,” said Warrell.

One sticking point that stalled the legislation is the debate over whether to withhold funds from insurance plans that provide abortions. Opponents of the legislation also said it didn’t go far enough to fix the ACA. 

Supporters of the bill say it could have lowered insurance rates by up to 40 percent. Insurance companies are predicting rate hikes of at least 10 percent because Congress did not stabilize coverage in this year’s spending bill.

Warrell said while there’s little hope for Congress to provide a solution, Tennessee lawmakers must now step in and expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“Sen. Alexander has done what he can do at the federal level,” she said. “But what we really need is for our state legislators to stop refusing federal tax dollars designated to provide care to uninsured Tennesseans.”

A study this month by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research estimated the expansion of Medicaid in its state generates a half-trillion dollars a year in health-care spending, and of that, 70 percent is new money in that state’s economy.

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