While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must still approve these specific rates, hefty increases are all but guaranteed. The numbers don’t lie: Obamacare is an abysmal failure and Tennesseans are suffering because of the president’s flawed health care law.
Unfortunately, skyrocketing premiums are one of the many predictions I made about the president’s health care law when it was passed. Ironically, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made health care even less affordable, leaving people across the country with higher insurance bills and fewer choices. According to Charles Gaba’s estimate, up to 2.1 million people will be forced to change their insurance provider because of insurers pulling out of the state exchanges. In Tennessee, 57 of the 95 counties in our state will have only one insurer offering policies in the individual market. How can you shop for a plan that works for you and your family when you have only one choice of insurer?
In Tennessee, Blue Cross Blue Shield - which provides coverage to roughly 83 percent of Tennesseans in the individual market – requested an increase of more than 36 percent on average in 2016. This year’s rate increase request was 62 percent on average. Cigna originally requested a 23 percent average increase for this year, but revised their request to 46 percent. Humana also raised their average increase request from 29 to more than 44 percent while UnitedHealthcare has dropped out of the exchange altogether. This is extremely concerning.
Some have said Tennessee’s troubles are because the state refused to expand Medicaid, but we’ve seen firsthand what can happen when you drop millions of patients into Medicaid. TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, is one of the oldest Medicaid managed care programs in the country. TennCare insures more than one million Tennesseans. As you may know, over 20 years ago, Tennessee dramatically expanded enrollment in TennCare, and it nearly crippled our state budget. Nearly 300,000 people had to be cut from the program ten years ago to keep it financially viable. Now, TennCare is one of the most restrictive health care plans in the United States. It limits what doctors patients can see, what medications they can be prescribed and what brands they can purchase.
Dropping more patients into a failing system is not health care reform, and I wholeheartedly believe the only way to truly reform health care in this country is to get rid of Obamacare and start over. This is why I wrote the American Health Care Reform Act, the Republican Study Committee’s endorsed conservative alternative to Obamacare. My bill has no mandates, no tax increases and will truly make health care affordable for all Americans. But that’s not the only plan Republicans have put forth to repeal and replace the ACA.
My Republican colleagues and I, particularly my fellow physicians in Congress, knew there were problems with the American health care system before Obamacare. House Republicans have introduced more than 400 individual bills to improve health care, including more than one comprehensive health care plan that would repeal and replace the president’s health care law. In fact - earlier this year as part of House Republicans’ ongoing effort to present bold solutions for some of the most pressing issues our country is facing to the American people – the Health Care Task Force rolled out a better way to reform health care. This plan has at least 48 ideas for comprehensive health care reform and repeals more than $1 trillion in tax increases that were included in the ACA. You can read that plan at better.gop.
Two things are clear: Obamacare continues to crumble and Republicans have real, substantive proposals that will work for patients. There is a better way. We must repeal and replace the president’s health care law, and what happened last week in Tennessee is further proof.
Phil Roe represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is physician and co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus and a member of the Health Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, he served as the Mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee.