Haslam & Alexander health care commentary: A sinking nation with a house on fire?

Tennessee Republican Bill Haslam, one of five governors scheduled to testify Sept. 7 before the U.S. Senate committee trying to come up with a health care insurance plan, outlined his views on the issue in a visit to Chattanooga Thursday, reports the Times Free Press.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee, also had a Tennessee speech Thursday including remarks on the matter. The Times Free Press has a report on both.

Haslam will urge the Trump administration to continue federal cost-sharing payments to health insurers to stabilize the health care market… (but)  the government needs to address the cost, not just the access to health care.

“I think that states could actually manage this better,” he said. “If you force states and tell them, ‘this is what you have and you must cover these individuals and get these kind of outcomes,’ then you will see a lot of creative problem solving.”

The federal government, which continues to run budget deficits despite higher taxes to fund the Affordable Care Act, “is pushing the costs on to our grandchildren and that is why medical inflation is twice the rate of inflation of everything else,” Haslam said.

“If health care inflation keeps going as it is now, we’re sunk as a nation,” the governor said. “When Medicare and TennCare take more of the government’s budget, there is less left for anything else. The federal government is about to become a really large health care insurance company with an army attached to it.”

…Alexander… told the Tennessee Restaurant Association on Thursday that Congress needs to address the immediate health care crisis before trying to repeal Obamacare.

“There are a number of issues with the American health care system, but if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire,” Alexander said. “In this case, the fire is in the individual market, where 350,000 Tennesseans and millions of others across the country — these are songwriters, farmers, the self-employed — face the real prospect of having zero options to buy insurance in 2018 and 2019 or, if they do have insurance to purchase, they may find premiums and deductibles might have gone up so high it’s like they don’t even have insurance because they can’t afford to use it.”

… Alexander said he is now working with Republicans and Democrats “to find a short-term solution for stabilizing the individual market” for 18 million Americans.

Note: Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, is also scheduled to testify at Alexander’s September hearing. She is a veteran of testifying to Congress on the subject. The four other governors invited are  Republican Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Democrat Steve Bullock of Montana, Republican Gary Herbert of Utah and Democrat John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado.

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