Tag Archives: obamacare

Alexander, other GOP senators, propose Obamacare ‘options’

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14—A group of eight United States Senators today introduced emergency, one-year legislation that would give states the authority to allow Americans who rely on Obamacare subsidies to have more options to buy health insurance unavailable on the failing Obamacare exchanges, and waive any penalty if they do not find a plan that suits their or their family’s needs.

Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said: “If you aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid and don’t obtain your health insurance through your employer, you are probably one of the nearly 11 million Americans who purchase their insurance on their own through the Obamacare exchange in your state.

“And you’ve probably read in the news that rates may be 60 percent higher next year than they were this year for the same insurance policy. And come November, nearly a third of the nation’s counties will have only one insurer for you to choose from when you have to buy health insurance on the regional Obamacare exchange as the market collapses and insurance companies are leaving the Obamacare exchanges in droves. This legislation would allow your state to give you the option of buying health insurance wherever you can find it whether on or off the Obamacare exchange.”

“This one-year solution is not a substitute for the long-term need to repeal and replace Obamacare with step-by-step reforms that transform the health care delivery system by putting patients in charge, giving them more choices and reducing the cost of health care so that more people can afford it,” he continued. “That would require a Republican president next year, but it gives Americans a real solution for next year and lets them know that we are on their side. Even if we have a Democratic president next year, we cannot continue without making big, structural changes soon to avoid a collapse of our nation’s health insurance markets.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said: “More than 11,000 people in my home state recently learned that they would have to find a new health care plan after an insurer announced that it would be leaving the New Hampshire partnership exchange next year. Higher premiums and fewer choices are impacting real people today, and hardworking Granite Staters can’t afford to keep taking these hits. Our legislation would provide a temporary means to lessen the burdens of ObamaCare on New Hampshire families and individuals by allowing eligible individuals to use a subsidy to purchase health insurance outside of the exchanges, which may offer less expensive options than plans available through the exchanges.  This bill will help bring back some much-needed flexibility and choice in the health insurance marketplace, both of which ObamaCare has limited.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said: “In more than half of all counties in America, there will be only be two or fewer carriers offering coverage on the Obamacare exchange. Hard-working families facing higher premiums because of Obamacare deserve relief.  This legislation will give families more choices in 2017, as Republicans work to replace this failed law with real reforms that will make health care more affordable for all Americans.”

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said: “Time has shown that Obamacare is resulting in fewer and more expensive choices for the American people.  This legislation would increase options for families in Mississippi and elsewhere to obtain health insurance without being locked into troubled Obamacare exchanges,”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) said: “I have worked for years to limit the damage and harm done to real people by Obamacare, a partisan policy that promised marketplace competition and higher quality health plans at lower costs and instead delivered the exact opposite. This bill would provide necessary relief to Wisconsinites who, under Obamacare, would be penalized for not purchasing a product that they cannot afford or does not meet their needs. It will allow the state to provide Wisconsinites receiving subsidies more options that just those offered on the Obamacare exchanges for 2017.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said: “Ohioans need immediate relief from the skyrocketing cost of Obamacare. Premiums have increased in Ohio more than 90% since the President’s health care law went into place. This bill would provide individuals who have suffered under the high costs and fewer choices of Obamacare more options to receive coverage—which means more competition which in turn brings down costs. After eight years of stagnating wages, slow economic growth, and a rising cost of living, Ohioans deserve the relief this legislation would provide, not a health care system they can’t afford.”                                                             
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would:

        Give states with a failing Obamacare exchange the authority to allow residents to use their Obamacare subsidy to purchase any health plan of their choice, even those off the exchange, for the 2017 plan year.

        If the state chooses to use this authority to allow residents to use subsidies outside of the exchange, the legislation will waive the Obamacare law’s requirement that you must buy a specific health care plan or pay a fine of as much as $2,000 for a family of four next year.

A summary of the State Flexibility to Provide Affordable Health Options Act is available online HERE.

Kelsey, Durham come up with new way to attack Obamacare in Legislature

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey:
(NASHVILLE), January 15, 2015 – Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Representative Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) today filed legislation that would prevent individuals and businesses in Tennessee from being assessed fees under Obamacare if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of King v. Burwell. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case in March which, in effect, challenges the administration’s regulations on citizens in states which did not set up state healthcare exchanges in conjunction with the federal act.

“This bill will stop the IRS from penalizing Tennesseans for not signing up for Obamacare,” said Senator Kelsey. “It also prevents Tennessee from operating any Obamacare exchanges in the future.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the section of the law authorizing the government to distribute tax credits and assess penalties applies only when states choose to run their healthcare exchanges. The law does not explicitly state that the tax credits and penalties apply when the federal government runs the exchange. Tennessee is one of the 25 states that have chosen to force the federal government to run its exchange. Senate bill 72 would prohibit Tennessee from running the exchange in the future if the plaintiffs receive a favorable ruling the case. A decision on the case is expected by in June after the Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned.

“The Supreme Court could overturn half of Obamacare, and this bill will prepare our citizens for that,” Durham concluded.

On Alexander’s past support and vague future plans for health insurance mandates

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has repeatedly declared his desire to repeal ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act, and recently penned an article giving a broad outline of replacement legislation. But TNReport reports that his campaign is vague on the central notion of whether Alexander would continue ObamaCare’s mandate that individuals buy health insurance – an idea the senator has embraced in the past.

Alexander, currently the ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, was among 15 national “health care thinkers” that Politico asked last month to contribute views on what to do about the ACA “for the long haul.” His prescription, which appeared under the heading, “A conservative alternative,” included a declaration that “Obamacare is so flawed that it cannot be fixed.”

“Instead of tinkering at the edges of this historic mistake, we need to move as rapidly and responsibly as we can in an entirely different direction,” wrote the former Tennessee governor. “We need to transform our health-care delivery system into one that emphasizes freedom and choice and lower costs.” (Note: The Alexander article is HERE – it’s No. 6 of the 15.)

Alexander’s piece did not mention, however, any plan for the so-called individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act, a provision of the current law that requires all Americans to prove they’ve purchased government-approved health insurance, or face tax penalties that the Internal Revenue Service will enforce.

In multiple email correspondences and phone conversations with Alexander’s campaign over the past week, TNReport asked for clarification from the two-term incumbent as to whether he’s committed to eliminating any federal requirement that people carry medical coverage. A spokesman for Alexander did not directly answer the question, but instead pointed to the Tennessee senator’s numerous votes to repeal the ACA since it was enacted, although no attempt to repeal the law has ever passed the Senate.

Also unaddressed in TNReport’s communications with the campaign were requests for Alexander to explain what led to his apparent change of heart on the issue.
Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, Alexander supported legislation that included a federal mandate that people buy health insurance.

In 2007, when George W. Bush was president, Alexander co-sponsored a bipartisan health care reform bill, the Healthy Americans Act. The proposal required citizens to carry a minimum level of health insurance. It also established subsidies for buying insurance, and ended tax-free employer-provided coverage.

Alexander, Carr differ on Burwell confirmation as HHS secretary

Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Republicans Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, voted to confirm President Obama’s nominee to become the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell. The floor vote was 78-17, according to various media reports, with Alexander and Corker among 24 Republicans voting yes.

Republican Senate candidate Joe Carr has now issued an attack on Alexander for the vote. Alexander earlier in the week made a Senate floor speech on the matter and had a news release.

Here they are:

News release from Joe Carr campaign:
Nashville, TN – Tennessee State Rep. and Senate candidate Joe Carr blasted Senator Lamar Alexander today for siding with Senate Democrats to confirm President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell.

“I could never vote to support someone who has embraced ObamaCare the way Sylvia Burwell has and for Lamar Alexander to give his vote of approval to the new face of ObamaCare shows that he would rather work to implement ObamaCare than repeal and replace it,” said Carr. “Had I been in the Senate, I would have joined with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio to oppose her nomination. Working families in Tennessee understand what Lamar Alexander clearly doesn’t: there is no fixing what’s broken with ObamaCare because ObamaCare is the problem.”

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander:
Washington, D.C., June 4 – In a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, called on Sylvia Mathews Burwell, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, to work with Republicans to “repair the damage done by Obamacare.”

Alexander urged Burwell to work with Congress, noting that the administration has instead made at least 22 unilateral changes to the health care law. “At this rate,” Alexander said, “the president may be invited to speak at the next Republican convention for doing the most of any elected official to undo his own health care law.”

He continued: “Republicans would like to repair the damage that Obamacare has done. We would like to prevent future damage, and as responsibly and rapidly as we can, we want to move in a different direction to put in place proposals that provide more freedom, more choices, and lower costs. We trust Americans to make those decisions for ourselves. We believe that is the American way. Since President Obama will still be in office for the next two years, if Ms. Burwell is confirmed we will need her help to do that.”
Continue reading

Pro-Obamacare PR campaign getting underway; TN talking points

From a Politico article:

The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act — tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall’s HealthCare.gov debacle.

That’s the thought at least.

If Wednesday’s start of coverage for millions of Americans doesn’t go as planned — so far, little about Obamacare has — the airwaves will be dominated with stories of complications and dropped insurance, and President Barack Obama will once again have to explain what went wrong.

But Democrats still see this moment as their best chance yet to show voters why the embattled law is worth protecting by featuring accounts of people visiting the doctor for the first time in years, receiving treatment for a nagging ailment or buying medication that they could never afford before.

White House officials and congressional aides say they have been lining up consumers and vetting their stories to tell through videos, blogs, local news, press conference calls and Twitter feeds, including those of celebrities. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius kicks off the effort with op-eds running Sunday in more than three dozen papers.

Andy Sher, meanwhile, has listed Tennessee talking points to be used within the state, citing a White House press release.

According to the Obama administration, beneficial impacts of the law in Tennessee include:

• 1,413,000 individuals on private insurance have gained coverage for at least one free preventive health care service such as a mammogram, birth control, or an immunization in 2011 and 2012.

“In the first eleven months of 2013 alone, an additional 584,400 people with Medicare have received at least one preventive service at no out of pocket cost,” the release says.

• Up to 2.76 individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, cancer, or diabetes – among them up to 353,000 children – “will no longer have to worry about being denied coverage or charged higher prices because of their health status or history.”

• Some 1.2 million Tennesseans have gained expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and/or federal parity protections.

• An estimated 889,000 uninsured Tennesseans will have new health insurance options through Medicaid or private health plans in the marketplace.

TN Obamacare enrollment: 992

The Obama administration Wednesday said that 992 individuals in Tennessee have selected a marketplace plan, as of Nov. 2. That represents about three percent of the 33,230 individuals in Tennessee who were included in completed applications, reports the Nashville Business Journal.

The figures were released in a larger report issued by Health and Human Services that shows 106,185 individuals across the country have selected a marketplace plan. (Note: The HHS report is HERE.)

Enrollment in the 15 state-run (and D.C.) marketplaces has outpaced enrollment in the 36 federally run marketplaces — 79,391 compared to 26,794 in the latter. Much of that discrepancy can be attributed to a faulty Healthcare.gov website, the main vehicle for individuals in states like Tennessee to enroll in coverage.

Although 992 Tennesseans have selected a marketplace plan, that does not mean they have completed payment and fully enrolled. On a press call with reporters this afternoon, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that number will be released after Dec. 15, the payment deadline for coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2014.

Sebelius added that she is not at all discouraged that people haven’t paid yet, pointing to a similar trend in Massachusetts, where people visited the site multiple times before actually buying coverage.

Naturally, Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation were quick to use the numbers as a new way to denounce Obamacare. Here are a couple of samples from emailed new releases:

Rep. Scott DesJarlais:
“It is unfortunate that the White House spent billions of dollars on a program that has successfully enrolled just enough people to fill Neyland Stadium on a Saturday afternoon. While the Obama Administration has its spin doctors working overtime to lower the American people’s expectations, the truth is these numbers demonstrate exactly what I have been saying all along: ObamaCare will not work.”

Rep. Diane Black:
“The enrollment figures released today confirm that Obamacare implementation is actually moving our nation backwards when it comes to giving people access to health insurance. For instance, only 992 people in the state of Tennessee have selected a plan through the exchanges, meaning they have not even necessarily finished the enrollment process. Yet just this weekend it was announced that 66,000 Tennesseans were being dropped from their current plans because they do not meet Obamacare’s mandates.

“Add this to the 28,000 that were dropped from CoverTN and other state sponsored insurance programs and almost as many Tennesseans have lost their coverage as people have signed up nationwide. This is true across the country as millions of Americans are losing their current coverage in direct contrast to the President’s promise that, ‘if you like your plan, you can keep

State issues rules for Obamacare ‘navigators;’ complaints ensue

Representatives of organizations seeking to help the uninsured sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act reacted with dismay, anger and disappointment Thursday when Tennessee issued emergency rules restricting their activities, reports The Tennessean.

The rules require their employees and volunteers to be fingerprinted, undergo background checks and limit the advice they can give to people. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said the agency is protecting consumers from fraud, but religious and social service leaders question the motive.

The rules were issued less than two weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, where the uninsured can shop for policies and possibly qualify for subsidies toward buying coverage. Organizations are uncertain how to comply and worry that it will delay their work.

“It binds people’s hands to bring about resources that can actually impact someone’s journey of health or illness purely for political motivation,” said Timm Glover, chief mission and ministry officer for Saint Thomas Health. “It has no concern for the common good of society. It flies in the face of human dignity.”

And critics of the rules say they don’t protect anyone from fraud because scammers aren’t going to register with the state.

Bipartisan legislation overwhelmingly passed by the legislature this year authorized the state agency to regulate navigators and certified application counselors. Navigators are tasked with doing outreach activities to inform people about coverage opportunities, while counselors can help them apply for coverage. The state law prohibits them from selling, soliciting or negotiating any insurance policy.

It sets a penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.

“I guess the question we’re asking is, ‘Where does it stop?’ ” said the Rev. Merrilee Wineinger, coordinator of holistic living and outreach for the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. “The state is coming in and telling churches that they can’t counsel. It’s something that we have been doing so long. They are regulating how we do ministry. Where does it stop?”

The regulations did not undergo any public hearings because they were issued as emergency rules, said Beth Uselton, a program officer with Baptist Healing Trust.

Note: The Commerce and Insurance news release is below.
Continue reading

Now on TV: Alexander Really Hates Obamacare

News release from Lamar Alexander campaign:
NASHVILLE, TN – Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign today announced the launch of a statewide television ad setting the record straight regarding Senator Alexander’s consistent, principled stand against Obamacare.

The ad begins, “Lamar Alexander led the conservative fight against Obamacare. Voted twenty-three times against it. Stood up to the president at the White House Health Care Summit.”

Alexander’s debate with President Obama at the White House Health Care Summit is highlighted in the spot. The two spar over Alexander’s statement that the president’s plan would lead to more expensive health insurance premiums for individuals. Later, both the president and Fox News affirmed that Lamar was right, and the president was wrong, about the true costs of Obamacare.

The 60-second television ad airs statewide beginning August 29.

Click here to watch the “Lamar Leads the Conservative Fight on Obamacare” Ad.

YouTube URL: http://youtu.be/2vgawwXsNaE

The Alexander campaign is chaired by Congressman Jimmy Duncan with co-chairmen Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher and Fleischmann.

The campaign’s Honorary Co-Chairmen include former U.S. Senators Howard Baker, Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson as well as former Governors Winfield Dunn and Don Sundquist.

Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Statewide Committee to Elect Lamar Alexander are all 13 living former state Republican Party chairs.

PAC Radio Ad Criticizes Alexander on ‘Defunding ObamaCare’

News release from Senate Conservatives Fund:
Alexandria, VA — Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) announced a new 60-second radio ad Wednesday calling on U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to oppose all funding for Obamacare. Senator Alexander voted in favor of the FY2013 continuing resolution earlier this year, which included funding for Obamacare, and he has refused to oppose funding for the law’s implementation next year.

SCF’s radio ad will run on stations across Tennessee for two weeks beginning Thursday, August 22. The value of the media buy is $45,900.

In TN, Medicaid Will Cover Low-income Immigrants, But Not Citizens

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s refusal so far to expand Medicaid under federal health reform could mean that Tennessee’s poorest residents won’t have access to health coverage in 2014 but some lawful immigrants will, according to the Chattanooga TFP.
That’s because legal immigrants with incomes below 100 percent of the poverty level — $11,170 for a single person or $23,050 for a family of four — will be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private coverage through health insurance exchanges.
American citizens with the same income levels, however, can’t participate in the exchange because the law envisioned those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level would be covered through the Medicaid expansion.
The politically ticklish contrast came about as a result of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The act aims to provide coverage to millions of lower-income people in two ways. One is to mandate that most people have health insurance and to help those who can’t afford it by subsidizing purchase of private coverage on new state health insurance exchanges. People with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level could get subsidies.
The other is by expanding state Medicaid programs, which now cover mostly low-income pregnant mothers, children and some disabled people, to everyone whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The court upheld the law but made Medicaid expansion optional rather than mandatory for states. Georgia, Alabama and many other Republican-led states have ruled out the expansion.
The prospect that legal immigrants, such as workers and refugees, will be insured but not the state’s poorest residents is “quite an irony,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of the Washington-based health advocacy group Families USA.
He said Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, cited that fact among others when she recommended her state expand Medicaid.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said the Supreme Court ruling sets up a political dilemma.
“If you’re a state that doesn’t do the expansion, there will be two groups of people below 100 percent of the poverty level: citizens, who will likely get nothing, [and] legal immigrants, who get fully subsidized coverage in the exchange. … That’s not going to sit well with folks.”