Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), held two of four hearings this week on how to bring stabilization to the individual insurance market. Alexander hopes to ultimately draft legislation that would include short-term funding for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies and provide additional measures to improve the viability of the individual insurance market.
At the first hearing on Wednesday, the committee heard from several state insurance commissioners, including Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, who also serves as president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. McPeak reflected the views of her colleagues in stating her recommendation that CSR subsidies be extended, preferably for at least two years. The commissioners also recommended changes that would create a short-term reinsurance mechanism to reduce losses for individual claims and better allow states to grow risk pools.
As part of the testimony and questioning of insurance commissioners, there was considerable discussion of 1332 waivers and the need to streamline the waiver process and reduce the budget neutrality requirement. Following the hearing, McPeak spoke to reporters, stating the “budget neutrality problem is the state’s biggest hurdle,” and a more streamlined process would allow states to piggy back off another state’s approved waiver to makes things easier.
Earlier today, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam joined several other governors in testifying before the committee and shared many of the themes noted by the insurance commissioners. Specifically, Governor Haslam also focused on the need for extending CSR subsidies, creating a short-term reinsurance program and providing states with greater flexibility in order to address unique needs and ultimately attract younger, healthier individuals to the marketplace.
Haslam also stressed the persistent issue of rising healthcare costs in his testimony, saying, “…we can move to stabilize the market now, while we work to take on the issue of healthcare costs.”
Next week, the HELP Committee will wrap up this series of hearings with separate meetings focused on state flexibility and testimony from healthcare stakeholders. The latter of these hearings will include remarks from another Tennessean, Manny Sethi, M.D., an orthopedic trauma surgeon from Nashville who also serves as president of Healthy Tennessee.
For more information, contact Mike Dietrich at THA, 615-401-7459.