Weekly Columns

Obamacare is An Irreparable Disaster

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Washington, September 28, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

This week brought more bad news for President Obama’s health care law. BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of Tennessee, the state’s largest insurer, announced they were pulling out of the exchanges in three Tennessee regions: Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville. BCBS provides coverage to roughly 83 percent of Tennesseans in the individual market, and roughly 131,000 across the state are losing their coverage because of this announcement. I find this deeply troubling, and I am working to find a solution for those affected by this change.

As a physician, I believe every Tennessean should have access to quality, affordable health care, but Tennesseans are quickly getting priced out under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – if they can find insurance at all. This announcement comes on the heels of steep premium increase requests approved by the state of Tennessee because the exchange is, according to the Tennessee Insurance Commissioner, “very near collapsing.” Unfortunately, every shortcoming I predicted about the president’s health care law is coming to fruition, and hardworking Americans are the ones suffering.

While I wholeheartedly believe the only way to truly achieve health care reform is to repeal and replace Obamacare, there are things we can do immediately to protect people from the fallout of the collapse of the president’s health care law. Make no mistake: this law is so deeply flawed it would be nearly impossible to ‘fix’ as some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have suggested we do. Obamacare is an irreparable disaster, period.

We can do better, which is why I support House Republicans’ Better Way agenda. This agenda includes at least 48 ideas for health care reform, and will lower costs and return decision-making power to patients and their doctors. I'm also glad the proposal includes several provisions from the American Health Care Reform Act, the bill I drafted to repeal and replace Obamacare. There are alternatives to the president’s health care law, and I will keep pushing for commonsense reforms to our health care system.

Perhaps the most telling piece of the Obamacare puzzle is the collapse of the Consumer-Oriented and Operated Plans, or CO-OPs. CO-OPs created by the ACA allowed groups to come together to start non-profit organizations to purchase health insurance with financial assistance from the federal government. To date, out of the 23 CO-OPs created, more than half have collapsed. This has cost taxpayers roughly $1.7 billion while hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their insurance coverage. In Tennessee alone, nearly 27,000 people lost their coverage when Community Health Alliance failed. These are people who tried to do the right thing and follow the law, and they should not be fined because of a poorly-written law that’s failing at no fault of their own. 

That’s why this week the House passed H.R. 954, the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act. This bill will simply exempt anyone who purchased insurance through a CO-OP that failed from the individual mandate. I don’t believe anyone should be forced to purchase insurance, but it’s especially unfair to penalize people who were told they had to buy insurance, went out and found a plan and then lost that coverage because the CO-OP went belly-up. This is just one of many steps we are taking to bring some common sense to this ridiculous law.

As I’ve said time and time again, health care reform should have never been a partisan mission. I’ve never once treated a Republican or Democrat cancer in my life. The only thing bipartisan about the president’s health care law is its opposition, and that explains why we are in the position we are now. Still, the patients suffering because of this law don’t care about politics; they care about being able to afford their premiums and medications, see their doctor and have the freedom to make an educated decision about what works for them and their family. Obamacare was the wrong direction for health care reform, and I will continue to support bills to make coverage affordable and accessible for Americans. In the meantime, I will keep working to find solutions for those affected by the many shortcomings of this law.

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