MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) was in the Mid-South the day after the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote. But, Republican Senate leaders such as Alexander appear to be aimed at creating their own version of the health care bill instead of voting on the House version. Although Alexander didn't put a timetable on when the Senate would take up their version of the bill, he said it was urgent.
"There is a sense of urgency because if we don't act soon the insurers will pull out of all markets that are collapsing and people in Memphis--as I said there are about 29,000--won't have any insurance to buy next year and premiums will keep going up," Alexander said.
Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, said he has four goals for the Senate version of the bill.
- Rescuing the thousands of Tennesseans and millions of Americans who will be trapped in collapsing Affordable Care Act exchanges with few or even zero options for health insurance in 2018 unless Congress acts
- Lowering premium costs, which have increased under the ACA laws
- Gradually giving states more flexibility on the Medicaid program, but doing this in a way that doesn't pull the rug out from under people on Medicaid
- Making sure those with pre-existing conditions have access to insurance.
"Memphis area residents currently have one choice of insurer on the Affordable Care Act exchange for 2018 - and if the remaining insurer leaves the exchange, these individuals will be left with an Affordable Care Act subsidy that's as useful to them as a bus ticket in a town with no buses running," Alexander said.
Alexander and Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn) introduced the Health Care Options Act in March.
"Our legislation would help those in Tennessee and across the country by allowing any American who receives a subsidy, and has no insurance available on their exchange next year, to use that subsidy to buy any state-approved insurance outside of the Affordable Care Act exchanges," Alexander said. "Second, the bill would waive the Affordable Care Act requirement that Americans in these counties, who have zero insurance options with their subsides, have to pay a penalty for not purchasing insurance. And third, this legislation will help bring peace of mind between now and the beginning of next year to millions of Americans, some of the most vulnerable people in the country, who face having zero options of health insurance to purchase with their subsidy."
It's unclear at this time if the Health Care Options Act will be the one the Senate takes up or if an entirely new one will be created.
The Health Care Options Act was referred to the Committee on Finance on March 29.