TENNESSEE, August 29, 2016– Recalling testimony offered both to a U.S. Congressional subcommittee and the Tennessee Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, Tennessee Senator Mark Green, MD asks that the financial bailout of a failed government program through the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, halt as excessive insurance premium rate approvals continue through the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.
“Americans witnessed DC politics at their finest as Obamacare became law in 2010 claiming that health costs would decrease among many other promises, such as you can keep your doctor and your plan,” said Senator Green, vice chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee with oversight of state insurance. “None of these outcomes have been achieved, despite the lobbying efforts of insurers and hospitals. It’s time to stop the unsustainable rate increases that citizens are being required by law to pay. It’s time to recognize Obamacare has failed.”
In a Jan. 7 memo requesting an explanation from TDCI for the steep premium increases approved in 2015, Senator Green noted constituent complaints from within his district and recorded in press accounts from across the state due to premium increases “as great as 56 percent.” Commissioner Julie McPeak of TDCI responded in the hearing that increases were second-order effects of Obamacare, as healthy people left the pool of insured, costs per patient skyrocketed.
Last week in the approval hearing for rate increases in Tennessee for 2017, “Commissioner McPeak declared that Tennessee’s Obamacare Exchanges are ‘very near collapse’ but still approved unbearable rate hikes to prop up a failed federal program,” Senator Green noted. “It may be time for all of Tennessee’s insurers to leave the program.”
During this year, TDCI has approved rate hikes of 44.3 percent for Humana, 46.3 percent for Cigna and 62 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield as United Healthcare exited the exchanges for 2017. As far back as testimony last year before the U.S. House Committee on Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight on June 24, 2015, the Tennessee commissioner stated, “Implementation of the ACA has been a challenge.”
In that June 2015 testimony, Commissioner McPeak detailed, “The average monthly premium for FFM (federally facilitated marketplace) products in 2015 is $321 and the average subsidy for Tennesseans is approximately $211, leaving the rest of health insurance consumers to pick up the net premium of $110.”
The problem in the healthcare system, cost-shifting within the third party payer system, was used as the solution under Obamacare. The result is skyrocketing costs that harms small businesses as they purchase insurance for their employees, said officials. “Another costly effect of Obamacare is the near impossible feat for small businesses to compete with larger companies who buy health insurance in bulk. Unlike Washington, DC, we cannot permit malignantly failed policies to continue,” said Senator Green.
“Until our federal government funds the laws it passes, we must, at the state level, act to protect our citizens, our small businesses, and the jobs they create. I am asking Commissioner McPeak to cap the increases until the federal government can find the means to pay the entire subsidy,” concluded Senator Green. “This is an inherent failure of Obamacare and the federal government should bear the burden, not Tennessee families.”
Senator Green is founder and president of a physician staffing company and is a practicing doctor in Clarksville, Tenn. He was elected to the district representing Montgomery, Humphreys and Steward Counties in 2012.