Haslam, other govs pitch quick health insurance fix

Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday urged Congress to “move quickly to stabilize” the nation’s individual health insurance market and then mount “a serious effort” to curb soaring health care costs as federal lawmakers seek ways to keep the Affordable Care Act from imploding, reports the Times Free Press.

Joining four other governors to testify before the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Haslam, a Republican, said Congress “should take steps now to prevent the total collapse of the health insurance market.”

Haslam and the other governors said that can be done by the federal government continuing to fund cost-share reduction payments that help subsidize insurance for low-income enrollees as well as by creating a short-term reinsurance program for enrollees to limit insurance companies’ losses.

Another bipartisan plea from the governors: Provide more flexibility to states.

“All of us – Republicans, Democrats and independents – should agree that our current path is not a sustainable one,” Haslam said.

Alexander is holding the hearings as Congress seeks a short-term fix to keep the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, from melting down.

After that, Alexander said, Congress can then work on a longer term solution.

See also Michael Collins’ report, which notes other governors on hand were Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gary Herbert of Utah and Democrats Steve Bullock of Montana and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

In their testimony Thursday, all five governors also urged Congress to continue the payments.

About 60 percent of all Tennesseans who buy their insurance on the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act receive subsidies to help lower premiums, Haslam said.

Failure to continue the cost-sharing funding would lead to significant premium increases and create more uncertainty in the market, Haslam said.

Congress can take additional steps to stabilize the market, Haslam said, by funding a short-term reinsurance program that would limit losses to carriers that provide coverage in the marketplace. And, he said, the federal government should allow states more flexibility to design insurance plans more suitable to their own needs.

…Once the individual market is stabilized, Haslam said, Congress should turn its attention to out-of-control health care costs, which he said are crippling businesses and families and overwhelming state and federal budgets.

Tennessee already has taken some steps to control spending by changing the way it pays for health care services. In the initiative, which began with TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, providers are compensated based upon the value of the coverage they provide, not the volume.

Early results show the state is saving millions of dollars while maintaining quality of care, Haslam said.

Haslam suggested the federal government consider a similar model to help control costs.

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