NASHVILLE, Tenn. — TN Senator Mark Green, MD today called upon Governor Bill Haslam to immediately petition the Obama Administration for permission to fund a free market solution to the collapse of the federally-run exchanges in the state. Despite the approval of a 62% premium increase for policy holders in recent weeks, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBSTn) announced its exit from a major portion of the exchange market developed by the federal Affordable Care Act mandating insurance purchases, leaving approximately 112,000 Tennesseans without insurance mandated by IRS enforcement.
“No more. The failures of this government takeover of health insurance have conclusively proven that more government is not the answer to the problems of lowering health care costs and increasing access to care,” Green, a practicing physician and founder of a doctors’ staffing company declared. “Tennessee should receive permission to immediately implement the TennCare Opt Out along with other health policies that put patients in charge of their health care.”
Green is the prime sponsor of the TennCare Opt Out legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 88, passed by the General Assembly this year and signed by the Governor. The resolution requests permission from the federal government to implement a test program built on free market principles. The pilot program would allow low-income Tennesseans to receive a healthcare expenditures account to pay for health services with powerful incentives to save instead of spend, to shop for lower price and for wellness instead of the traditional government payment for a federally-determined menu of care.
“Not only was Commissioner McPeak accurate that these Obamacare exchanges are very near collapse, the urgent demand is to respond with a solution,” noted Green who serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee. “The federal government has failed with hundreds of millions of dollars lost on our state alone. Tennessee has an effective and innovative plan passed this legislative session. We need to energize the federal government to allow us to try it.”
Citing uncertainties in the marketplace along with a loss of $500 million through 2016, BCBSTn announced its abandonment of policies serving approximately 29,000 in Memphis, 52,000 in Nashville and 31,000 in the Knoxville area. These policy holders will be forced to find another insurance plan or pay the fine levied by the IRS if found to be uninsured.
Dr. Green continued, “We’ve talked about it. We’ve predicted it. Now, it’s time to act with a free market solution for not just TennCare patients but all low-income citizens who seek some type of insurance coverage. Folks, government-run health care does not work.”
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 mandating all citizens purchase health insurance. The federally-run exchange in Tennessee is the vehicle for those purchases for citizens not covered by their employers as a benefit of employment. While the stated goal of the law was to reduce costs and increase access to care, out-of-pocket expenses have increased to patients in Tennessee in the form of higher deductibles and soaring premium costs.
Senator Mark Green, representing Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties, is founder of Align MD, a healthcare provider staffing company with offices in 10 states. His legislative record includes health care proposals to mimic other markets, such as the telecommunications sector, which offers consumer choice, competition and falling prices.