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"Junk" health plans bad for Tennesseans

Robert Houk • Mar 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

A panel assembled by the Tennessee Small Business Alliance said Tuesday partisan efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act will be devastating to the poorest and sickest Tennesseans.

They pointed to a newly released study from the Urban Institute assessing the effects of Trump administration regulations that grant a one-year extension of limited-duration health care plans that do not conform with ACA requirements regarding lifetime benefits and pre-existing health conditions.

The three members of the panel said these minimum plans will result in ACA-compliant premiums rising by 18.2 percent in the coming months and leave 180,000 more Tennesseans uninsured or underinsured by 2019. At the same time, the Urban Institute reports the Trump regulations will result in an estimated 9.3 percent increase in federal spending for health care in 2019.

Dr. Eric Harman, a physician who practices at Mountain Region Family Medicine in Kingsport, told reporters on a conference call that efforts to “sabotage the Affordable Care Act” has put his patients at risk. Harman said, “We’ve come too far to go back to the way things were” before the ACA.

“Lives are at stake here,” he said.

Jenny Rogers, owner of Welcome Valley Village in Polk County, said she and her husband have been beneficiaries of the the ACA. Before the act, Rogers said the cost of their health care premiums were climbing by the double digits annually.

She said the new Trump regulations are a “back-door effort to repeal” the ACA, and called on Tennessee’s Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to “end the partisan war” on affordable health care.

Meanwhile, Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are pushing passage of legislation to guarantee insurers federal reimbursements for discounts that the ACA requires health plans to provide to their lower-income enrollees to help reduce their deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. The Trump administration ended those discounts in October.

Kelly Gregory, who owned a real estate company in Hendersonville before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, told reporters Tuesday the Trump regulations were part of a “con game” to make Tennesseans believe they were getting decent health care under “these junk plans.”

She likened these limited, low-cost plans to “payday loans” that “don’t make going to the doctor any more affordable.”

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