Sen. Lamar Alexander opines on Obamacare

There is an Obamacare emergency in Tennessee. Humana just announced the week of Feb. 19-25 that it is pulling out of all Obamacare exchanges for 2018 – meaning that 40,000 Knoxville residents on the exchange may have zero options for health insurance next year. They have an Obamacare subsidy, but it’ll be like holding a bus ticket in a town where no buses run. And Tennesseans just went through an enrollment period where 171,000 of them had to pick new plans because United and Blue Cross Blue Shield TN reduced offerings for 2017.

The news from Humana should light a fire under every member of Congress to work together to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges before they have no insurance options next year.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

In January, the Senate took the first step toward building better health care systems by voting on a budget resolution that provides the tools necessary to begin repealing Obamacare. I have proposed a three-part plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare simultaneously and concurrently, as President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan have suggested. To me, “simultaneously” and “concurrently“ mean Obamacare should be finally repealed only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care. The American people deserve health care reform that’s done in the right way, for the right reasons, in the right amount of time. It’s not about developing a quick fix. It’s about working toward longterm solutions that works for everyone.

If a local bridge in Tennessee were “very near collapse,” the first thing you would do is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt. Then you would build a better bridge—or more accurately, many bridges—to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished, you would close the old bridge.

Similarly, we will first send in a rescue crew to repair temporarily a collapsing health care market so no one else is hurt. Then, step by step, we will build better systems that give Americans access to truly affordable health care. We will do this by moving health care decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and patients.

Finally, we will repair the damage that Obamacare has caused millions of Americans. We will do that by replacing Obamacare with better, lower-cost alternatives and repealing the parts of Obamacare that have caused the damage. While we will vote to repeal Obamacare this year, the repeal will take effect when concrete, practical alternatives are in place.

I wrote more about my plan at

Following my recommendation, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule on market stabilization the week of Feb. 19-25 to help rescue Americans from the currently collapsing Obamacare individual market.

This action by Secretary Price is a good first step towards rescuing the health care market that Tennessee’s insurance commissioner says is “very near collapse.” Without this course of action, many of the 18 million Americans in the individual insurance market may have zero choices for insurance next year. Congress will act in the next few weeks to help provide a stable situation for the next three years while Congress and the administration work to replace and repeal Obamacare and give Tennesseans and all Americans more choices of lower cost insurance.

It’s time to stop acting like the Hatfields and the McCoys over Obamacare — Tennesseans expect the new Congress and administration to work together to quickly fix the Obamacare emergency in our state.

Written by Sen. Lamar Alexander. Contact him via his website at