U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today urged his colleagues to develop a better health care approach before completely repealing the Affordable Care Act adopted seven years ago.
Alexander, chairman of the Senate health committee, said Congress should end the worst parts of the so-called Obamacare program immediately, but then develop better state solutions and alternative before repealing the entire health care law and all of its benefits.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Alexander said he favors a three-step plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare. President-elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan said today they favor a "simultanously and concurrently" repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
"To me, 'simultaneously' and 'concurrently' mean Obamacare should be finally repealed only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care," Alexander said. "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 long-term solutions that works for everyone."
Alexander likened what he said are the collapsing Obamacare exchanges in Tennessee to handling a collapsing bridge.
"If your local bridge 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," he said. "Then you would build a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, as states develop their own plans for providing access to truly affordable health care to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished you would close the old bridge."
In Tennessee, the state's health exchange cooperative — the Knoxville-based Community Health Alliance — shut down in 2015 and the state's biggest health insurer — the Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee — dropped its individual health exchange plans in the state's three biggest cities this year. America's biggest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, also dropped out of the health exchange market in Tennessee this year after coverage proved more costly than expected.
To help restore more competition and limit rising premiums, Alexander proposed a three-step plan: "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, when our reforms become concrete, practical alternatives, we will repeal the remaining parts of Obamacare in order to repair the damage it has caused Americans. This is what I believe we mean when we say Obamacare should be repealed and replaced, simultaneously and concurrently."