Alexander Says 2018 Health Insurance Compromise That Includes Cost-Sharing Payments Must Include Flexibility For States

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

At the third of four Senate health care hearings this month, held to hear testimony from state flexibility experts, Chairman Lamar Alexander said that any health insurance compromise for a stability bill including cost-sharing payments must also include real flexibility for states.

“The individual market is where 18 million Americans buy their insurance, “Senator Alexander said, “The cost of premiums, co-pays and deductibles have been skyrocketing in many states.

Half of these 18 million Americans have government subsidies to help cushion the blow of these rising prices. Many who find themselves in the other half are being priced out of the insurance market. They just can’t afford it.

“Despite our partisan differences, our two hearings last week demonstrated a real hunger by many senators on both sides of the aisle to come to a result. Three themes emerged during those hearings and I believe they represent a working consensus for stabilizing premiums in the individual insurance market in 2018. First, Congress should approve continuing funding of the cost-sharing payments that reduce co-pays and deductibles for many low-income Americans who buy insurance on the exchanges.

“The second theme came from senators on both sides of the aisle to expand the so-called 'copper plan' already in law, so anyone – not just those 29 or under – could purchase a lower premium, higher deductible plan that keeps a medical catastrophe from turning into a financial catastrophe.

“Third, advocated by state insurance commissioners, governors, and senators from both sides of the aisle, was to give states more flexibility in the approval of coverage, choices, and prices for health insurance.

“Most of the discussion about flexibility last week centered on giving states greater flexibility by amending section 1332—the state innovation waiver provision that is already in  the Affordable Care Act. We heard from virtually every witness last week that an application for the section 1332 waiver is too cumbersome, inflexible, and expensive for states – even though 23 states have taken steps to start the process so far, only two have succeeded. One part would be to make it easier for states to do what Alaska has done, and what Minnesota, Iowa and Maine are considering doing. 

“Another part is to give states more authority to offer a larger variety of health insurance plans that would give individuals the opportunity to have a more personalized health insurance plan. We heard from several witnesses that the current rules on what types of health insurance can be offered under 1332 waivers are so rigid that a state essentially can’t offer anything but an existing Affordable Care Act exchange plan. This would be like a restaurant menu with only one item, or a travel agency with only one destination, or if Dr. Seuss had written a book titled ‘Oh, The Place You’ll Go.’”

On Thursday, the committee will meet to hear from a state insurance commissioner, doctors, and patient advocates. The committee met last Wednesday to hear from state insurance commissioners and last Thursday to hear from governors

Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.



Erlanger Proceeding With Radiation Oncology Center At East Campus

Erlanger Health System is proceeding with the construction of a Radiation Oncology Center on the East Campus. It will include the installation of a linear accelerator at the Erlanger East Medical Office Building that is rising rapidly. Britt Tabor, chief financial officer, said the building was set to be ready this fall. However, he said it is ahead of schedule and should ... (click for more)

Erlanger Net Patient Revenue Up $20.6 Million Over Prior Year

Erlanger Health System's net patient revenue is up $20.6 million over the prior year as market share continues to grow, the Erlanger board finance committee was told Monday. Officials said for the second quarter hospital admissions remain strong. The quarterly surgical inpatient volume was 8.7 percent greater than the prior year. Inpatient heart surgeries were 118.5 percent ... (click for more)

City Council Balks At Approving New $600,000, Two-Year Contract To Father To The Fatherless For VRI Program

The City Council on Tuesday night declined to approve a two-year $600,000 contract with a local non-profit group for the city's Violence Reduction Initiative. Father to the Fatherless previously had the contract and was seeking an extension. Kerry Hayes of the mayor's office asked for a one-week delay, saying the office wanted to make sure that all concerns of the council ... (click for more)

City's Top Traffic Reconstruction Expert: "Man, This Truck Just Creamed A Dozen Cars"

The Chattanooga Police Department's top traffic reconstruction expert testified Tuesday that when he first viewed the scene of an horrific crash at the Ooltewah exit he thought "Man, this truck just creamed a dozen cars." Officer Joe Warren told a jury from Nashville that, according to his calculations, Benjamin Scott Brewer was traveling at 81-82 miles per hour when he struck ... (click for more)

Dismal Educator Teaching At UTC - And Response

Roy Exum,  People are talking about the inability of UTC to turn out high quality teachers. Well, should any university be expected to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse? We all know how our school system students fail miserably on national scholastic aptitude tests as a whole.  Forget Tcap tests, those are teacher tests not meant for measuring student progress, but ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Making A Difference

It was about 50 years ago when the late writer Loren Eiseley penned an essay called “The Starfish Thrower” so it’s been one of my favorite stories for almost as long. It tells about a man who walks up to a young boy on a beach, this just after a strong storm had washed hundreds of helpless starfish onto the shore. The boy was picking up the stranded starfish and, one at a time, ... (click for more)