Weekly Columns

Tennesseans Deserve First Class Care

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Washington, February 15, 2017 | Tiffany Haverly (202-225-6356) | comments

On Tuesday, Humana announced they would pull out of all exchanges established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, for 2018 and beyond. Unfortunately, this means more bad news for the Tennesseans struggling under the ACA. Humana was the only insurer offering coverage through the ACA in 16 counties in the state of Tennessee. Sadly, that means 1/3 of all the counties in my Congressional district now have no options for health care coverage under the ACA for 2018. This comes after Humana had to revise their rate increase request for 2017 from 29 to 44 percent. Coverage through Obamacare has been unaffordable for many Tennesseans – but now it is nonexistent. There’s no denying this law is failing under its own weight, and I’m hearing from many Tennesseans who want repeal now more than ever. 

This week I’ve been working hard to keep our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. I’ve met with members of leadership, other committee chairmen and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss how we can repeal the ACA, provide immediate relief to the people – like those in Tennessee – who are suffering because of this law, and replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care reform that will lower costs and improve access. The work ahead won’t be easy, but failing to act will only result in more patients being harmed because of this disastrous law. Anyone who claims Congress only wants to repeal Obamacare for political reasons is being disingenuous.

Tuesday evening I held a telephone town hall for constituents in the First District to discuss the issues facing them and their families. As many of you know, I regularly hold these calls as one means of hearing directly from East Tennesseans. We had a lot of questions related to the ACA, veterans’ benefits, and the new priorities of the Trump Administration. I also asked callers a simple poll question: do you support Congress acting to repeal and replace Obamacare? We had 650 constituents weigh in, and 538, or 83 percent, said Congress should act to repeal and replace Obamacare; 57, or 9 percent, said that Congress should leave Obamacare in place; and 55, or 8 percent, said they were unsure at this time. While the results aren’t scientific, the strength of support for repealing and replacing the ACA is telling.

There is a great deal of interest in one of the most popular provisions in the ACA, the guaranteed issue of insurance for individuals suffering from a pre-existing condition. As I’ve said many times before, I didn’t do the best job explaining exactly what coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions meant. Even prior to ACA passage, if you had health care coverage through your employer, like roughly 155 million Americans do, insurers could not discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions if you move from one plan to another. But there was no similar protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions who move from an employer-based plan to a plan on the individual market. While relatively few individuals were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, many feared they would be denied coverage. What Republicans will do is give this same protection to individuals and families who are moving their coverage to an individual policy, and we will ensure that there is adequate funding for high-risk pools, which are health insurance markets set up specifically to take care of individuals who have conditions that are not covered by insurance.

There are some people who have unquestionably been helped by the ACA, because you can’t spend $1 trillion and not help someone. In the weeks ahead, Congress will begin considering many different options to repeal Obamacare and replace it with health care reform that will benefit all Americans. We will make sure all Americans, including those newly covered by the ACA, have access to affordable coverage options. I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the direction of this country, and that starts with our nation’s health care system. As a physician who practiced medicine in East Tennessee for more than thirty years, I got to know many of my constituents long before I ever ran for office. I know first-hand that East Tennesseans are some of the best people you’ll ever meet. East Tennesseans are first class citizens, and I wholeheartedly believe they deserve first class health care.

Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.
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