NASHVILLE - A Republican-sponsored bill that seeks to bar insurers from participating in a federally operated health care exchange in Tennessee is "constitutionally suspect," Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said in a legal opinion Monday.
In the opinion, requested by Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, Cooper said that while states have the authority to regulate insurance under a long-standing federal law, it also retains the power of Congress to "override state insurance law when Congress desires."
The intent of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act was to reform the nation's health insurance and health care delivery markets with the aims of improving access to markets and reducing health costs and uncompensated care, Cooper's opinion notes.
To accomplish those goals, the law provided for establishment of state-based health insurance exchanges, the online market places where individuals, families and small employers can compare prices and buy coverage from one of the insurer's listed on the exchange.
Cooper said "when a federal law specifically relates to the business of insurance, the states remain authorized to regulate the business of insurance but are subject to the limitations imposed by the Supremacy Clause."
Because Gov. Bill Haslam refused to create a state-based exchange, the federal government will run one instead.
Favors, a retired nurse and health care administrator, backs the health care law overhaul that led to the exchanges.
The bill purporting to block insurers from participating in the exchange is sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, who have opposed the law.